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If the verb 'wish' and the verb that follows it do not have the same subjects, you can either say

I wish you didn't chew gum in class!

or

I wish you wouldn't chew gum in class!

if you want to emphasise the fact that the action you wish for depends on someone's good will.

Now, if the subjects of 'wish' and of the following verb are the same, can you still say

I wish I wouldn't chew gum in class!

?

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  • This works, but "I wish I didn't" is probably more readable.
    – Adam Hayes
    Commented Mar 9, 2016 at 21:24
  • I wish I wouldn't... is rare in Britain.
    – WS2
    Commented Mar 9, 2016 at 21:36

2 Answers 2

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That's a perfectly fine construction. Other more common examples of it include "I wish (that) I would set my alarm correctly", "I wish (that) I were better at waking up to my alarm", and "I wish (that) I had remembered to study for the exam".

Links to dictionaries with such a construction given as an example http://www.collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/english/wish

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If someone's wish is about a past event, since it cannot be changed now, using 'would' does not make much sense, so you say

I wish you hadn't chewed gum in class!

but not

I wish you wouldn't have chewed gum in class!*

… pleading with the listener — invoking their good will — works if it's about a present or a future situation but not if it's about a past one.

Similarly, when the subject of 'wish' and of the following verb are the same, and even if the wish is about the present or the future and not the past, using 'would' does not make much sense:

I wish I wouldn't chew gum in class!*

should be avoided… Who would plead with themselves? Either you have the will (not) to do something or you don't!

I haven't got a link to a grammar book or website, precisely because the ones I use do not say anything about this problem!

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  • 1
    The construction is fine with events where one hasn't any or complete control: 'I wish I wouldn't keep getting asked if I'm Tom Baker / I wish I wouldn't keep forgetting to turn the television off at the plug.' Commented Mar 9, 2016 at 22:49
  • @EdwinAshworth: in your first example, the second verb is in a kind of passive voice, the understood agent of which — (by) people — is the real subject of the verb ask… , which would explain why 'would' works here. In your second example, there is the idea that these things happen in spite of all my efforts: so I would be pleading with Someone to give me the necessary attention… ?
    – user58319
    Commented Mar 9, 2016 at 23:11
  • @EdwinAshworth: doesn't the use of 'would' imply a certain feeling of helplessness?
    – user58319
    Commented Mar 10, 2016 at 7:07
  • When coupled with 'I wish', as here. Commented Mar 10, 2016 at 13:06

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