Verbs Exercise (390)

The language of wishing requires a particular combination of verb tenses, according to whether the wish is for the present, the past, or the future. Choose the correct verb form for each of the following sentences.

  • I didn’t buy tickets while they were available. I wish I _______ them.

  • The yard work is getting to be too much for me. I wish I _____ a gardener.

  • I was being careless when I fell yesterday. I wish I _______.

  • I really enjoyed going to graduate school. I wish I ______ there now.

  • I was one of the finalists, but they didn’t give me the prize. I wish they _____ it to me.

Answers and Explanations

1. I didn’t buy tickets while they were available. I wish I had bought them.

When we want to talk about situations in the past that we are not happy about or actions that we regret, we use the verb wish in one clause and a verb in the past perfect tense in the other clause.

2. The yard work is getting to be too much for me. I wish I had a gardener.

When we want to talk about situations in the present that we are not happy about, we use simple past tense following the "wish clause."

3. I was being careless when I fell yesterday. I wish I hadn’t fallen.

Because the regretted situation is in the past, we use past perfect in the clause that follows the "wish clause."

4. I really enjoyed going to graduate school. I wish I were there now.

The wish is being made in the present about something in the past; the simple past tense of the verb goes in the clause that follows the "wish clause." Note: Some speakers would use "was," but many speakers and style guides recommend the use of the subjunctive were with a singular subject in unreal situations.

5. I was one of the finalists, but they didn’t give me the prize. I wish they had given it to me.

The situation being wished about is in the past, so the clause that follows the "wish clause" takes the past perfect.

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