Thursday, December 19, 2013

Wishing in the past: regretting & blaming

Tom didn't do well in his exam. He now WISHES he HAD STUDIED & DONE his homework more.

This is the fourth lesson in our series on how to wish correctly. If you need a refresher on how to wish in the present, check out part one; if you need to brush up on wishing about the future, check out part 3. Part 2 talks about wishing someone the best.

In this lesson, we will go over how wishing works when we talk about the past. Wishing in the past usually takes the form of regrets or blame. We regret when we wish we HAD DONE or HADN'T DONE something, and we blame someone when we wish the person HAD DONE or HADN'T DONE something.

If you notice, we use the PAST PERFECT when we express regret or blame about the past.

  1. I wish we HAD STAYED longer. (We didn't stay longer.)
  2. I wish I HADN'T DRUNK so much. (I drank a lot.)
  3. I wish you HAD CALLED me first. (You didn't call me first.)
  4. She wishes she HAD STUDIED for the exam. (She didn't study.)
  5. They wish they HADN'T FOUGHT with the cops. (They fought with the cops. :-|)

Alternatively, instead of saying "I WISH," you can also use "should + the present perfect," sometimes called a perfect modal, to express regret or blame. The following sentences are similar to sentences 1, 2, & 3 above, which express regret or blame using "I wish."

  1. We SHOULD HAVE STAYED longer. 
  2. I SHOULDN'T HAVE DRUNK so much.

There you have it folks. I hope you won't have to regret much or blame anyone, but if you had to, you now know how to do it correctly in English.

Do you think you now have a good handle of how to WISH correctly in English? Try your hand at an exercise all about wishing on the next post.

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-- Joe Yu, ESL instructor

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