If we make the subordinate clause in "I wish he were here" nonfinite we get "I wish him to be here", right? Can we then change the voice? What I mean is can "He is wished to be here" be grammatical and why?

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    FYI, He was wished here, although not a daily expression, seems more idiomatic than the version you ask about. Was he driven here? No he was wished here, sail Aladdin. Still marginal, but sounds better than he was wished to be here. The two passive sentences do not mean the same thing, though. Aug 13, 2017 at 13:21
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    @Clare But in that universe, wishing was causative. See StoneyB's answer below.
    – Phil Sweet
    Aug 13, 2017 at 13:40

2 Answers 2


“He is wished to be here” is marginally grammatical, but in practise very unlikely.

Although he may be cast in the “object” case with an infinitival complement (I wish him to be here), it is not an actual object of the verb wish. It is actually the subject of the clause complementing wish, (I wish that he were here) and only formally an object, as it were “by position” or “by construction”. He doesn’t really sustain being cast as the subject of passive wish.

Moreover, wish is semantically oriented toward the Agent, the wishing person who is the subject of an active sentence: it designates the Agent's emotional state, and ordinarily has semantically very little (if any) actual impact on the eventuality which the agent desires. The subject of a passive clause is taken to represent the Patient of the verb, the entity acted upon; but wish doesn’t really “act upon” its complement. Again, even a full clause doesn’t sustain being cast as the subject of passive wish.

I suppose it might be possible to invent a set of circumstances in which passive wish would be appropriate, but it’s hardly worth the effort. If you need a sentence like “He is wished to be here” as an answer to an ill-conceived test question, write it down; but avoid it in serious work.

I should have begun by addressing your premise:

If we make the subordinate clause in "I wish he were here" nonfinite we get "I wish him to be here", right?

This is in fact wrong. I wish he were here and I wish him to be here mean different things. Wish has a core sense of “earnestly desire”, but in practice it has at least four ‘sub-senses’ which are mostly distinguished by the sort of complement employed.

  • PLAINTIVE, with a ‘subjunctive’ finite complement—“I wish he were here”. Wish expresses regret that the desired eventuality is not actualized in the present: “He’s not here, and I wish he were”. This construction is used in all registers; in informal registers were may be ‘de-subjunctivized’ to was.

  • JUSSIVE, with a marked infinitival complement—“I wish him to be here”. Wish is roughly equivalent to want and expresses a (mildly) softened command that the eventuality be actualized in the future: “I want him to be here at five o’clock” or “tomorrow” or “as soon as possible”. This construction is quite old-fashioned, and it’s usually employed only in formal registers.

  • OPTATIVE, usually ditransitive, with an indirect and a direct object— “I wish him luck”—but occasionally attributive, with a direct object and a predicative complement—”I wish him happy”. Wish is roughly equivalent to hope: “I hope that he will experience luck/be happy”. This construction is used in all registers.

  • EFFECTIVE, usually attributive—”I wished him into existence”. Wish is equivalent to cause by an act of wishing: ”I caused him to come into existence by wishing”. This construction is (obviously) restricted to fantastic registers.

Of these, only the optative and effective versions may be felicitously passivized. (Note that the passive optative version ordinarily occurs only with an underlying active context where the Recipient of the wish is the person addressed: "We wish you a Merry Christmas" > "He was wished a Merry Christmas by them".) I suspect that the existence of the plaintive version interferes with passivization of the jussive version: we can certainly passivize other jussives such as desire and require:

The King desires/requires you to be here > okYou are desired/required to be here, but
The King wishes you to be here > ??You are wished to be here.

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    Jim McCawley used to say that what grammaticality stigmata like asterisks on an utterance really represent is the degree of difficulty that a listener has in imagining a context in which the utterance makes sense. Personally, I would award ??He is wished to be here two question marks. Aug 13, 2017 at 14:18
  • Maybe a case where the case is clearer would be I wish him luck, where I suppose that the passive would be luck is wished (to) him by me rather than He is wished luck by me? Aug 13, 2017 at 17:28
  • @HagenvonEitzen Yah, it works (sort of) with the ditransitive version; but that seems to me a different sort of wish than the one OP is concerned with. Aug 13, 2017 at 18:42
  • How about It's wished that he were here?
    – Barmar
    Aug 13, 2017 at 19:50
  • @Barmar Again, it's grammatical, but it's hardly something anybody would find occasion to say. Aug 13, 2017 at 19:52

Here is another sample you may be able to use for comparison:

Desires turned into hopes which fueled efforts that created reality. The dreams of the people started out as fantasies, which were later wished into existence.

Yeah, using "wished" passively could be done. Like StoneyB's answer, I agree this would be quite uncommon.

Note that what you're seeking to do is to transform a sentence from a strong form into a weak form. Sometimes this may also be phrased as going from a "strong" voice to a "passive" voice. I've been to multiple college-level English courses where such weak form was prohibited in the submitted writing. The classes actually taught people to avoid the weak form, and probably also included exercises/problems requiring people to practice turning weak form into strong form.

The basic structure of what I'm calling "weak form" is: something is done by something else. e.g., A is done by B.

The strong form is: "B does this to A".

So, while technically legal, it is a style of writing (and speaking) that instructors discourage, at least for formal work.

Ooh, the middle part of that sentence looked weak. Let me re-phrase that.

So, while technically legal, instructors [do] discourage that style of writing and speaking, at least for formal work.

The basic trick is to find the verb, and make sure that whoever is doing that verb is mentioned first.

He is wished to be here

Who is doing the wishing? Since we don't know, let's just say "someone". The strong form would be:

"Someone wished he is here."

Basically, English classes have taught that this would be the order of preference of the proposed sentences:

  1. "I wish he were here"
  2. "I wish him to be here"
  3. "He is wished to be here"

Your question really seems to be trying to go from the most preferred format to the least preferred format (at least, for formal writing). Before trying to determine what is tolerable, that you may be able to get away with it, I would question: Why are you seeking to take steps to go from best* to worst*?

* - I realize that the words "best" and "worst" are pretty subjective and some people may consider judgemental. Furthermore, I acknowledge that people do write for more reasons that just formal environments. What is truly best will depend on factors like who your audience is, and what your goals are. In some cases, being informal may be perfectly acceptable or even preferred. However, I've tended to take a liking to many formal style of communication, so violating the recommendations (which I learned in school) is not what I would consider to be generally encouraged. I do think that if such rules do get violated, it is best for people to be actively aware of what they're doing, and probably also have a good notion of why they consciously make the choices they do.

  • "..and by a sleep to say we end the heartache and the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heirs to Aug 14, 2017 at 5:26
  • ...'tis a consumation devoutly to be wished." A historical example of a passive of "wish". Sorry about the mistaken plural of 'heir' in the previous -- hit the 5 minute comment-editing time limit... Aug 14, 2017 at 5:43

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