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Another read I come across in which a guy has written, "I wish you could see that young restless orphan who has no house to live in, none to get food from, whose pshychological centre has been damaged to the hilt. I wish you could see the pain of that abandoned girl on road who has set huge ambitions, but not priviliged enough to reach them, whose each tear drop brings earthquakes in the place on which it has fallen. I wish some magic happens and brings back all your lost senses and you start loving each and every human being going through hardships.

Is this at all correct to say happens after wish as the author has written above?

The writer is Indian. Not native.

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    How people write on Facebook, Twitter, and on the phone is one thing, how someone writes an article, a report, a study or a a contemporary novel is another. You need to say 1. Where you found this sentence. 2. The context (although it's easy enough to guess) 3. Who said it? Was that person a native speaker or not. Was that person an American, British, Indian or non-native speaker? 4. Explain why you think it may be grammatically incorrect. – Mari-Lou A Oct 5 at 12:15
  • I will fix it, dear. Hold your horses. – Faizaan Bashir Oct 5 at 12:19
  • 'I wish some magic happens', 'I want some magic happens', 'I desire some magic happens', 'I would like some magic happens', 'I need some magic happens' (and many other similar strings) are all ungrammatical. – Edwin Ashworth Oct 5 at 15:30
  • So this is wrong? – Faizaan Bashir Oct 5 at 15:45
  • @EdwinAshworth - And yet "I hope some magic happens", "I suggest some magic happens", "I demand some magic happens" and others. Turned out interesting, this one. Any ideas for a pattern, principle or premise? – ItWasLikeThatWhenIGotHere Oct 5 at 16:25
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No, you cannot have a present-tense verb following I wish that X.

That’s because you always have to backshift that next verb in X to make it unreal or hypothetical. After all, it’s a wish; it isn’t real. Therefore using the present tense won’t work there. (By the way, wish is pretty much the last verb in English that still works this way. Even hope can take a non-backshifted present tense.)

Here though are valid and commonly used forms that are available to you for wish:

Present Tense: I wish that...

  1. I wish she called first, but she doesn’t.
  2. I wish she would call first, but she doesn’t.
  3. I wish she would call first, but she hasn’t.
  4. I wish she had called first, but she didn’t.
  5. I wish she would have called first, but she didn’t.

Past Tense: I wished that...

  1. I wished she had called first, but she didn’t.
  2. I had wished she would have called first, but she hadn’t.

The most important thing is the last word in each version, the ones matching X in the parenthetical afterthought, “but she Xn’t”. I don’t mean to say that we actually say that last part, but we always have its status in mind so that we know exactly what to choose for the two earlier clauses’ verb forms to convey the meaning given by the parenthetical.

Examples (1) and (2) with doesn’t are both talking about something habitual. It’s like she never does call first even though you wish she would do so. Maybe you’ve even asked her to do so, but it does no good to ask.

In example (3) with hasn’t, you’re still hoping she might call first. The event you’re wishing would happen still lies in the future, its outcome still unknown.

In examples (4) and (5) with didn’t, there is no chance of your wish coming true because it’s too late: the possibility lay in the past and she already did not call first. It can never come to pass.

In example (6) with wished and didn’t, the wishing itself is now in the past, but the outcome is the same: it did not happen. It’s too late for it to yet occur, just as in (4) and (5). Only when the wishing is taking place has moved into the past from the present.

The final example (7) with had wished and hadn’t, is far less common than the others because it’s using a more complex construction, the past perfect, which we often don’t bother with in English. Usually a simple past suffices. But the place you would be more apt to use this one is when you were narrating something in the past and needed to set up a condition that was even further back than the time you were narrating.

But what about “the subjunctive”?

It was easier to explain how to use wish along with the simple verb call. But with be you do have another choice, and people who are fussy about using were for hypotheticals instead of was when backshifting into the unreal will also elect to use that special form here as well.

  1. I always wish she were here now, but she never is.
  2. I wish she were here now, but she isn’t.
  3. I wish she had been here now, but she isn’t.
  4. I wish she had been there then, but she wasn’t.
  5. I wished she had been there then, but she wasn’t.
  6. I had wished she had been there then, but she wasn’t.

Just as you cannot use present-tense calls after I wish, you also cannot use the present-tense can be or is able to be following it, either; You always have to backshift.

Here’s a backshifted can be, where present-tense can becomes past-tense could:

  1. I always wish she could be here now, but she never can (be).
  2. I wish she could be here now, but she can’t.
  3. I wish she could have been here now, but she can’t.
  4. I wish she could have been there then, but she couldn’t.
  5. I wished she could have been there then, but she couldn’t.
  6. I had wished she could have been there then, but she couldn’t.

And here’s how you would do that same thing with the periphrastic version where we reword can + ɪɴꜰɪɴɪᴛɪᴠᴇ into an inflected form of be able to + ɪɴꜰɪɴɪᴛɪᴠᴇ, with allows the form of be chosen to now carry person, number, and inflectional tense or mood:

  1. I always wish she were able to be here now, but she never is.
  2. I wish she were able to be here now, but she isn’t.
  3. I wish she were able to have been here now, but she isn’t.
  4. I wish she were able to have been there then, but she wasn’t.
  5. I wished she were able to have been there then, but she wasn’t.
  6. I had wished she had been able to have been there then, but she wasn’t.

In some ways, it’s easier to use that last set than the set immediately previous to it.

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  • This is all wishful thinking. – Edwin Ashworth Oct 6 at 13:48
  • Don't most (younger?) people now say "I wish she was here now"? – Mitch Oct 6 at 16:04
  • @Mitch Only if they want the Oscar-Meyer–wiener-jingle cops to come a-gunnin’ for ’em! I deliberately wrote “people who are fussy about using were for hypotheticals instead of was when backshifting into the unreal will also elect to use that special form here as well.” Your English Comp grader ᴡɪʟʟ mark your paper down for this—and you for a bumpkin if you persist. It's always been considered a grammatical error by the educated here, which is why we had a wiener controversy in the first place. Think of it as a “class marker”. – tchrist Oct 6 at 22:06
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It's correct, but it's a contraction. The writer appears to be saying "I wish that something magical happens...", which has "happens" after "wish". There's nothing wrong with that : "happens" is the verb in a subordinate / dependent clause.

Separating the main verb from the dependent clauses, we have "I wish / some magic happens / and brings back all your lost senses...".

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  • No, this is a grammatical error. You can't have a regular present-tense verb after I wish that. – tchrist Oct 5 at 14:26
  • @tchrist - I agree that a conditional tense is better. (See what I did there? Almost said "would be" from force of habit...) – ItWasLikeThatWhenIGotHere Oct 5 at 14:50
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    The OED suggests this sense is old-fashioned but either present subjunctive or indicative can be used ("(b) with object clause with may or (formerly) present subjunctive, occasionally indicative: expressing a desire that the event may happen or that the fact may prove to be so"). It has examples of both, although in many cases it's impossible to differentiate subjunctive and indicative. – Stuart F Oct 5 at 16:17
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    Wish can easily be used with the present tense. This happens all the time when people blow out candles on a birthday cake or break a wishbone: I wish that your coming year is a good one. I wish that one of us wins the lottery. – Global Charm Oct 7 at 5:55
  • @GlobalCharm Nope, those are ungrammatical in my language. That sounds like some sort of blunder that little kids might say before they’ve been through grammar school to learn them how not to have missaid things. – tchrist Oct 22 at 3:22

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