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22. Wish and if only


1 Introduction

We can use I wish or if only to express a wish. Jessica wishes she was slimmer.
If only is stronger and more emphatic than wish.

We can use a clause with if only on its own, or we can add another clause.
If only I wasn't so fat.
If only I wasn't so fat, I would be able to get into these trousers.

2 Wish .. . would

Look at these examples.
I wish you would put those shelves up soon.
Tom wishes his neighbours wouldn't make so much noise.
If only you'd try to keep the place tidy.
Wish/If only ... would expresses a wish for something to happen, or to stop happening.

3 Wish .. . the past

Look at these examples.
I wish I lived in a big city. It's so boring in the country.
We all wish we had more money, don't we?
If only I was taller, I might be better at basketball.
Wish and if only with a past-tense verb express a wish for things to be different.

We can use were instead of was.
If only I were taller, I might be better at basketball.

We cannot use would in these sentences, but we can use could.
I wish I could sing (but I can't).
I feel so helpless. If only I could speak the language.

Compare wish with would and with the past.
I wish something exciting would happen. (I wish for an action in the future.)
I wish my life was more interesting. (My life isn't interesting.)

4 Wish ... the Past Perfect

We use wish and if only with the Past Perfect to express a wish about the past.
I wish you had told me about the dance. I would have gone.
I wish I'd got up earlier. I'm behind with everything today.
I wish you hadn't lost that photo. It was a really good one.
If only David had been a bit more careful, he'd have been all right.

We do not use would have for the past, but we can use could have.
I wish I could have been at the wedding, but I was in New York.

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