English Grammar: Wish vs. Hope (Review & Exercises)

English Level: Intermediate+

Focus: An overview of the rules between the verbs wish and hope

Jump to: Wish (below), Hope, Exercises

Worksheet Downloadwish-hope-worksheet-esl.docx (scroll down to study the exercises online)

Put simply, this is the difference between hope and wish:

  • The verb wish usually describes the present or the past.
  • The verb hope usually describes a possible future situation.

Let's look at the rules and some examples in detail.

A girl making a wish.

The Verb Wish to Describe a Present Desire

Form: subject + wish + (that) + noun + past simple / past progressive

  • I wish (that) I had more money now. (this describes a desire the present)
  • She wishes (that) she were taller.
  • He wishes (that) he didn't have to work today.
  • They wish (that) they could come.
  • I wish (that) it wasn't raining. 

The verb wish used this way is the same as the present unreal conditional (second conditional).  All of these sentences describe and unreal/imaginary situation that someone wants.

  • John doesn't have a car. He's sad. = He wishes he had a car.
  • I don't have enough time :( = I wish I had more time.
  • Her leg is broken. She's sad. = She wishes her leg weren't broken.

Even though the grammar is in the past tense (I wish I had more money), the meaning is in the present. Any wish can also be expressed in the second (present unreal) conditional.

  • John wishes he had a car. = If John had a car, he would be happy.
  • I wish I had more time. = If I had more time, I would be happy.
  • She wishes her leg weren't broken. = If her leg were not broken, she would be happy.

Grammar note: Just like in the second conditional, we don't use was. Instead of saying, "I wish I was taller," it is more correct (grammatically) to say "I wish I were taller." These sentences, in the second conditional, would be "If I were taller, I would be happy." The idea is the same. We generally don't use was.

Remember, when we use wish, we always want for the opposite of the real situation now. Because of this, the verb changes from positive to negative, or negative to positive. Let me show you.

My dog is sick. :(

  1. The verb =  is
  2. Verb in the past = was were
  3. Change to negative = weren't
  4. The whole sentence = I wish my dog weren't sick.

I can't swim. :(

  1. The verb = can't swim
  2. Verb in past = couldn't swim
  3. Change to positive = could swim
  4. The whole sentence = I wish I could swim. 

I'm gaining weight. :(

  1. The verb = am gaining (present progressive)
  2. Verb in past = was were gaining (past progressive)
  3. Change to negative = weren't gaining
  4. The whole sentence = I wish I weren't gaining weight. 

It's not that hard, is it? Let's try some exercises.


Exercise #1 - Using Wish in the Present

Remember to avoid using was with wish. Good luck.

  1. John is poor. John wishes he (be/not) poor.
  2. My apartment is small. I wish it (be) bigger.
  3. She hates her job. She wishes she (have) a different one.
  4. I can't sing. I wish I (can/sing).
  5. I have to get up early for my job. I wish I (not/have to) get up early.
  6. It's raining now. I wish it (not/rain).
  7. I'm so tired. I wish I (sleep) now instead of working.
  8. The students have a lot of homework. They wish they (not/have) homework.



The Verb Wish + Would to Describe a Present Desire

I've just told you that we use a past tense verb (past simple or past progressive) after wish. However, we use the helping verb would when we wish that someone else would do an action.

  • I wish you would listen. (It's my wish, but I want you to do the action.)
  • She wishes her husband wouldn't leave the toilet seat up. (It's her wish, but she's wishing someone else do the action.)
  • I wish the manager would do something. (Again, the wish is directed at someone else.)

We only use would when the verb is an action verb, not a state verb (for help with this, see this lesson). In short, action verbs are verbs like 'kick/run/open/stop' that have an action (we move our bodies). Non-action verbs (stative or linking) are verbs like 'have/be/know/understand' that describe a situation (or state), not an action. Here at some examples.

My friend John doesn't have a job. He is poor. :(

Possible wishes:

  • I wish he weren't poor. (BE = state verb, so we don't add would)
  • I wish he had a job. (HAVE = state verb, so we don't add would).
  • I wish he would find a job. (Find = action verb, so we add would.)
  • I wish he would look for a job. (Look = an action verb, so we add would.)

This is difficult, isn't it? Remember, these are all wishes that the subject wishes someone else do. Let's look at another example.

My dog Pepe is a bad dog. :(

  • I wish he weren't bad. (BE = state verb)
  • I wish he wouldn't chew on my shoes. (Chew = action)
  • I wish he would listen. (Listen = action)

Do you see the difference? Let's try some exercises.

Exercise #2 - Wishing Other People Do Things  (Action or State Verbs)

Remember to only use would if it's a wish that the wisher wants someone else to do, and if the verb is an action verb.

  1. My neighbour plays loud music. I wish he (turn) his music down. I've asked him to do so, but he won't listen. I wish he (listen).
  2. Also, his dog barks all night. I wish the dog (not/bark) so much. I wish my neighbour (have) a pet fish, not a dog.
  3. Yesterday, someone parked in my parking space. I wish people (not/park) in my spot. There's even a sign that says, “Reserved Parking”. I wish people (read) the sign.
  4. It's expensive and troublesome to have a car in the city. Sometimes I wish I (not/have) a car. However, public transit is not very convenient here. I wish the government (build) more subway lines.
  5. English grammar is difficult sometimes. I wish it (be) easier.



Using Wish to Describe a Past Regret or Mistake

We can also use wish to talk about mistakes or regrets in the past.

Form: subject + wish + (that) + noun + past perfect*

(*Past perfect = had + past participle)

  • I didn't study enough when I was young. I wish I had studied more.
  • I didn't bring an umbrella. I wish I had brought an umbrella.
  • She said something impolite. She wishes she hadn't said it.
  • My friend forgot my birthday. I wish he hadn't forgotten.

The grammar for wishes in the past is the same as the past unreal conditional (third conditional). Again, when we wish, we are wishing for the opposite of reality. The verb describes the opposite of the situation.

Fact: I broke the dish. :(

  1. Verb = broke
  2. Verb in past perfect = had broken
  3. Change from positive to negative = hadn't broken
  4. Full sentence = I wish I hadn't broken the dish.

Fact: She didn't tell me about the party. :(

  1. Verb = didn't tell
  2. Verb in past perfect = hadn't told
  3. Change from negative to positive = had told
  4. Full sentence = I wish she had told me. 

That's it for the past. Fortunately, we don't use would when we talk about past wishes. So it's pretty easy.

Exercise #3 - Wishes in the Past

  1. I didn't wake up on time. I wish I (wake) up on time.
  2. Lisa arrived late. She wishes she (arrive) earlier.
  3. He forgot to bring his passport. He wishes he (bring) it.
  4. I painted my room black, but it looks terrible. I wish I (not/paint) it black.
  5. There was too much salt in the soup. I wish the chef (use) less salt.
  6. She told me the ending of the movie, so now I don't want to see it. I wish I (not/speak) to her.



The Verb Hope to Describe a Future Desire

Form: Subject + [ hope ] + (that) + [ present tense ]

  • I have a test tomorrow. I hope (that) I pass.
  • John is looking for a job. He hopes (that) he gets a job soon.
  • It's cloudy. I hope (that) it does not rain.
  • The movie starts soon. I hope (that) it is interesting.

All of these examples talk about something that we want to happen in the future (tomorrow, soon).

With the verb hope, we use the present simple tense even though we are talking about the future. However, some English speakers will use a future tense (which may not be good grammar), but is acceptable.

  • I hope I pass = I hope I will pass.
  • He hopes he gets a job = He hopes he will get a job.
  • I hope it does not rain = I hope it won't rain.

These sentences are all acceptable, even though they don't follow the traditional rules of grammar. For the exercises below, please use a present tense, however.

Exercise #4 - Hope for Future Desires

  1. I hope there (be) never a war again.
  2. Tim hopes that he (get) a bicycle for Christmas.
  3. I hope that it (not/rain) tonight.
  4. Jenny hopes she (not/fail) her exam.
  5. I hope I (see) you at the party tonight.



Hope with a Past Action

Hope is sometimes used with past actions. For example:

  • "Thanks for coming my party last night. I hope that you had a good time."
  • Karen had to rush to the airport. I hope (that) she remembered her passport.

In these sentences, hope has the same meaning it normally does: it describes a desire. Note the differences between hope in the past and wish in the past:

  • I hope that you had a good time. (Meaning = You went to the party, and I desire that you had a good time (it's what I want))
  • I wish that you had had a good time. (Meaning = You went to the party, but did not have a good time. You regret this.)


  • I hope that she remembered her passport. (Meaning = You desire that she remembered her passport.)
  • I wish she had remembered her passport. (Meaning = She forgot her passport. You regret this.)

In summary, wish in the past expresses a regret about an action. Hope in the past, like hope in the future, describes a desire/want.


That's the end of the lesson. There are a few more notes below that you can skip if you want to jump to more exercises.

Note #1: Don't we Use Wish for the Future Too?

Not really. Look at this sentence:

  • I wish I didn't have to work tomorrow.

This is describing a present situation. You have to work tomorrow, and you are unhappy about that now. You wish the situation were different. If you didn't have to work tomorrow, you would be happy now. This is still describing the present in my opinion. This is the same as when we use 'want' with the future (e.g. I want a bicycle for my birthday (next year)).

Note #2:  'wish + infinitive' is also used as a more formal want to say 'want to.' For example, she wishes to see you.

Note #3: 'hope + infinitive' can also be used  when the subject of the sentence is the person who will do the action.

  • I hope that I pass. = I hope to pass.
  • He hopes that he doesn't fail. = He hopes not to fail.
  • I hope that he passes. = I hope he to pass. (You cannot use it here)

Note #4: 'wish + noun' is used to say that you hope someone has something in the future. For example:

  • I wish you a Merry Christmas. ( = I hope you have a Merry Christmas.)
  • I wish you a quick recovery. ( = I hope you recover soon).

Now, let's try some exercises to see if you can use the correct verb.

Exercise #5 - Wish or Hope? Write the Verb

  1. John failed his test. He he had studied more. He he passes his next one.
  2. My apartment is small. I I had a bigger apartment. I I didn't live here.
  3. Ryan has a soccer game tomorrow. He his team wins. The game might be cancelled though, if it rains. He it doesn't rain.
  4. Tina doesn't like Donald Trump. She  he had not won the election. She that he doesn't destroy the world.


Exercise #6 - Wish or Hope? Add the Correct Verb and Clause

  1. Tina is single. She doesn't have a boyfriend, but she wants one. In other words, Tina (wish/hope) she (have) boyfriend.
  2. My sister bought a suitcase last week. But when she took it on her travels, it broke. She regrets buying it. In other words, she (wish/hope) she (not/buy) it.
  3. My friends are always looking at their mobile phones. I (wish/hope) they (not/do) that. It's rude.
  4. Bobby has a lot of work to do, but he  (wish/hope) that he  (can/finish) by 5 p.m..
  5. Yesterday, John asked his co-worker if she was pregnant. She got angry at him because she wasn't. John (wish/hope) that he (not/say) that.
  6. I have an important speech to give tomorrow. I (hope/wish) that I (not/forget) everything I plan to say.



There are other ways in which we use these verbs, but those are the main ways the verbs hope and wish are used.

If you have any questions or you find a mistake, please write a comment below.

All the best.

- Matthew Barton (copyright) / Creator of Englishcurrent.com


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48 comments on “English Grammar: Wish vs. Hope (Review & Exercises)

  1. David (Posted on 4-9-2018 at 07:24) Reply

    It is bloody ineresting,useful and easy!!Thank you very much

  2. Aida (Posted on 9-14-2018 at 05:05) Reply

    Ummm, It’s absolutely perfect and completely useful.You’re awesome, Mr Barton!.Eventually I learned it.Thanx a zillion. Wish you all the best

    1. Martin (Posted on 6-26-2022 at 22:44) Reply

      it is very good thanks alot

  3. Ali (Posted on 9-21-2018 at 10:26) Reply

    Why do we use “so” instead of “too” in this sentence :
    I wish he wouldn’t speak so loudly.

    1. mb Post author (Posted on 9-22-2018 at 14:17) Reply

      –Good question. I’ve never thought about that. We don’t seem to use ‘too’ with wish.
      I wish she weren’t so impolite. ( = meaning: I wish she were less impolite)
      I wish I weren’t so poor. ( = meaning: I wish I were less poor)
      I wish he wouldn’t speak so loudly. ( = meaning: I wish he would speak less loudly)

      –If we use ‘too’ in the sentences, the ‘meaning’ becomes strange.
      I wish she weren’t too impolite. ( = meaning: I wish she were regularly/normally impolite)
      I wish I weren’t too poor. ( = meaning: I wish I were regularly/normally poor)
      I wish he wouldn’t speak too loudly. ( = meaning: I wish he would speak regularly/normally loudly)

      In other words, when you use wish + ‘too’ with a negative adjective (e.g. too ugly), it logically means you wish they were that negative adjective (you wish they were ugly), just not ‘too’ much of it. This is a strange wish. That is my guess.

      1. Jorge Fino (Posted on 4-14-2020 at 13:33) Reply

        Thank you very much it was very good practice the last one was the most difficult.

      2. Jonatan (Posted on 1-12-2021 at 17:58) Reply

        This was very well explained, and also made me think about why we do use ‘too’ with the word ‘hope’. For example, “I hope I’m not too late,” or “I hope I’m not too sick to travel.” In these cases we’re essentially acknowledging a negative trait (being late, being sick), and expressing a hope that it’s not too harmful.

        “I hope I’m not too late” is especially interesting, since if you say it when you arrive, you might think it’s referring to the present. However, it does still refer to the future since while we’re already late, we’re still lacking the knowledge of whether we were *too* late.

  4. khalil (Posted on 2-13-2019 at 06:37) Reply

    thanks a lot for this work.

  5. aya (Posted on 4-16-2020 at 07:56) Reply

    Thanks for these information it s very interesting

  6. Ben (Posted on 4-30-2020 at 07:27) Reply

    You missed the use of hope for the past: I hope you had a good time. I hope you weren’t too busy yesterday. Other than that a great exercise. Just that one element missing.

    1. mb Post author (Posted on 5-1-2020 at 00:50) Reply

      Thanks! I added a short explanation about hope in the past. Cheers

  7. Manuel (Posted on 5-14-2020 at 05:08) Reply

    It’s completely useful!! Thanks

  8. Anonymous (Posted on 5-26-2020 at 12:33) Reply

    You should also provide the correct answers

    1. mb Post author (Posted on 5-26-2020 at 13:31) Reply

      The answers are provided. Just click the ‘Check Answers’ button.

  9. Angela (Posted on 5-30-2020 at 19:08) Reply

    Excellent explanation. I had been searching for a good one and here you have a lot of uses, the grammar and the differences. Thanks a lot

  10. martha (Posted on 6-7-2020 at 10:35) Reply

    Great explanation! Thanks a lot!

  11. Oscar.Cash (Posted on 8-3-2020 at 09:58) Reply

    A person’s success does not depend on his wisdom, but perseverance

  12. fsaneh (Posted on 8-11-2020 at 12:32) Reply

    It was really useful, thank you Matthew

  13. Pablo (Posted on 9-10-2020 at 08:04) Reply

    Thank you sooo much! Excellent explanation.

  14. Ihor Tukhochuk (Posted on 9-12-2020 at 11:07) Reply

    Thank you! Keep up the good work.

  15. Kelly (Posted on 9-18-2020 at 07:53) Reply

    I have seen an example relating to hope with a present meaning which you haven’t mentioned here…
    e.g. I hope the children are enjoying the film (happening now). I hope you understand my reasons for…. (I hope you understand now)

    1. mb Post author (Posted on 9-18-2020 at 13:25) Reply

      Hello. Yes, those seem correct. There does seem to be a way to use hope with state verbs to describe the present. I will have to update the page. Thanks!

  16. Hala (Posted on 9-27-2020 at 11:53) Reply

    This was a bit difficult

  17. Silvana Paulos (Posted on 11-2-2020 at 09:00) Reply

    Thanks a lot!
    Very useful and easy to understand for my FCE students!

  18. Adriana Aldrete (Posted on 11-30-2020 at 19:24) Reply

    Thank you very much! This is a helpful tool for teachers and students.

  19. Jonatan (Posted on 1-12-2021 at 18:08) Reply

    I think one very useful distinction is that the word ‘wish’ refers to what is known, whereas ‘hope’ refers to what is unknown. This explains why you can sometimes use ‘hope’ referring to the past or present, as you might not be aware of what has already happened, but you would never use ‘wish’ to refer to the future, since it is unknowable.

    In fact, this leads me to think that the only way to use ‘wish’ about the future is if we are certain of what the future will hold, which ties in with your example in note #1: we know we have to work, but we wish we didn’t.

    1. mb Post author (Posted on 1-12-2021 at 22:02) Reply

      Interesting analysis. It makes sense. Is this an original theory or based on a grammar textbook?

  20. LY (Posted on 3-16-2021 at 12:15) Reply

    Thank you so much.

  21. Mulugeta Aligaz (Posted on 5-5-2021 at 22:14) Reply

    Thank you.
    It is very important note and exercises with answers.

  22. Ahmed (Posted on 6-17-2021 at 04:52) Reply

    Your rules are very clear and simple to remember.

    Thank you infinitely.

  23. Spencer (Posted on 7-1-2021 at 19:12) Reply

    I have a question: What about the following phrase: ” I wish you would be quiet “. (I read it in an English book about regrets, but here you say that you can’t use “would” with stative verbs like the verb “to be” so I’m confused) is that phrase correct? is that an exception? Thank you for the lesson! very instructive!

    1. mb Post author (Posted on 7-1-2021 at 21:53) Reply

      Hello. Good question. The phrase “be quiet” is actually an expression representing an action (with a similar meaning to ‘shut up’). This makes it an exception. Here are some examples with the normal use of the ‘be’ verb (not representing an action). You can see that they are odd (and incorrect): “I wish you would be rich.” / “I wish that you would be taller.” < Both of these are wrong and should use 'were'.

  24. Spencer (Posted on 7-11-2021 at 18:03) Reply

    Oh thank you, I got it!. So in the following phrase: ” I wish you would be a bit more friendly “, “BE A BIT MORE FRIENDLY” represents an action?

    1. mb Post author (Posted on 7-11-2021 at 19:00) Reply

      Yes, to ‘be friendly’ in the context of that sentence means to ‘act friendly’. The speaker is referring to an action.

  25. Spencer (Posted on 7-15-2021 at 21:19) Reply

    Nice!! Again, thank you for your help and thank you for your patience. I’ve had that question in my head for months, now I’m free!!

  26. Dwi Yono (Posted on 8-9-2021 at 07:35) Reply

    It’s use for learning. It helps teacher to understand so much.

  27. AJB (Posted on 12-6-2021 at 10:03) Reply

    Hi Matthew,
    Great content again. I have just taught a lesson on present wishes and I found that my students were saying many sentences that seemed “unnatural” to me.
    For example, “I wish I passed the test”. Would it be better to say, “I wish I had passed the test” to instead express a past wish?
    Also, is it the case that non-action verbs typically work more naturally with present wishes? For example “I wish I believed in him”, “I wish I loved her” or “I wish I knew his number”.
    Let me know what you think.
    Thanks again.

    1. MB (Posted on 12-6-2021 at 13:49) Reply

      Hello. I agree. “I wish I passed the test” should be “I wish I’d passed the test.”. Wish + past perfect = describes a past regrettable action/situation, and wish + past simple describes a present regrettable situation (e.g. She’s not here. I wish she were here.) Yes, it does seem like non-action verbs (State verbs) work best with present wishes. It’s hard to think of an action verb that could be regrettable in the present, simply because actions happen and finish so quickly. It’s hard to kick someone and regret it while it’s happening — the regret always comes after, making it a past wish. It seems like you understand based on your comments. Good luck with your classes.

  28. Rina (Posted on 3-24-2022 at 22:19) Reply

    Really thank you for the exercises

  29. Rasya ulfa (Posted on 8-15-2022 at 08:33) Reply

    good for sharpening the brain

  30. ibnu zaki hidayatullah (Posted on 9-6-2022 at 07:40) Reply

    Nice!! Again, thank you for your help and thank you for your patience. I’ve had that question in my head for months, now I’m free!!

  31. Tomi (Posted on 12-7-2022 at 11:06) Reply

    Your explanation was so good. Thanks!!

  32. Artus billy (Posted on 12-16-2022 at 07:45) Reply

    I love thé way that you teach

  33. Peter Tang (Posted on 1-10-2023 at 22:58) Reply

    What a great and useful lesson for non-native English speakers!

  34. Nazma Septia (Posted on 7-23-2023 at 06:18) Reply

    very nice and Im happy

  35. Nazma Septia (Posted on 7-23-2023 at 06:20) Reply

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  36. Sawapat Buangam M.4/4 No.40 (Posted on 8-19-2023 at 11:05) Reply

    Missing and respecting each other is a good thing.

  37. aris (Posted on 8-29-2023 at 18:32) Reply


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