In a grammar book I read that I wish + would is mostly used in negative sentences.

My question now is if those expressions are both correct or there is a mistake:

  1. I wish she had a car.
  2. I wish she would have a car.
  • 'I wish she had a car.' is totally idiomatic. // 'I wish she would have a car' cannot be used with the same meaning. It is perhaps not too common (especially in the US, I'd say), meaning 'I wish she'd change her mind about [not] owning a car [and get one].' – Edwin Ashworth Nov 10 '16 at 11:45
  • So as I understand I wish she had a car can be used in a situation where I regret that she doesn't have it. And is the second sentence of no sense at all? – Marita Nov 10 '16 at 11:52
  • As @EdwinAshworth says, it has a particular sense: If Sue says "I will not have a car; they cost too much, they are smelly and I don't have the space!", you might say "I wish she would have a car: she will find it much more convenient than her penny-farthing bicycle." Note the emphasis on would, though. – Andrew Leach Nov 10 '16 at 12:27
  • 1
    Ok, folks. This one gets up my nose. [I am bi-lingual in BrE and Ame]. For me, in standard English, "I wish they would" is a usually no no. "I wish" can only be followed by simple past or past perfect (I wish they had a car or I wish they had had car) except for expressing a future idea or a negative: /I wish they would just leave/. Meaning: they are here now and from this point forward, I wish they would leave OR /I wish they wouldn't leave [from this point on]/. – Lambie Nov 10 '16 at 13:03
  • 2
    I wish the Tooth Fairy would bring me a million dollars. – Hot Licks Dec 10 '16 at 19:56

The problem is that "would" has several meanings, some with slightly overlapping connotations.

  • a wish or preference, e.g. "Rather than wait for a bus, I think she would [prefer or choose to] take a taxi".

  • a conditional future, e.g. "If we hired her, she would make a good manager". Here the speaker is simply stating what they think is an expected outcome, conditional only on the job being offered (and in principle, regardless of "her" wishes or choice). So to distinguish between this and the previous meaning, simply add "choose to" after "would/wouldn't" and see whether the result has the desired meaning.

  • a habitual practice or occurrence, e.g. "I wish her face wouldn't twitch all the time", meaning it is an annoying habit or mannerism "she" often has. Arguably, "would" is ungrammatical when used in this sense and it should be "did/didn't". But it is how people also use the word, perhaps with connotations of the first meaning, i.e. (in this example) as if "her" face had a choice as to when it twitched, and the speaker wished it would choose not to twitch!

edit: The second use, with "would" rather than a simple "will", tends to be used for conjectural situations it is expected or hoped will not occur. For example, if hirers were discussing CVs one being this candidate's, and she may well be hired (depending only on the other candidates), they would probably say "If we hire her, she will make a good manager". But if, say, they were discussing some competent manager already employed by a competitor, and who hadn't applied for the job, they would use the "would" form. Similarly, one could say, "If I dropped this Ming vase on the concrete floor it would smash", i.e. this is a situation in some ghastly fictitious parallel universe which one hopes will not occur!

  • So for e.g if I want my mother to come and see me,I mean I just sort of dream to see her which phrase is more appropriate : I wish she were here now or I wish she would come now – Marita Nov 10 '16 at 17:06
  • Well in this example the "would" aspect is about your mother's wishes rather than yours. (Starting the examples with "I wish" slightly muddies the waters because it means we may be dealing with two wishes! ;-) – John R Ramsden Nov 10 '16 at 17:19
  • Many thanks to everybody. I understood the difference. – Marita Dec 20 '16 at 18:34

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.