English Grammar - "I wish..." - Subjunctive


Hi. Welcome again to engvid.com.

I'm Adam. Today we're going to look at something that I know students sometimes get

confused about. First of all, students ask me all the time,

'What is the subjunctive, the subjunctive voice in grammar?' First of all let me tell

you there are two different - or three even - different ways of looking at

the subjunctive. Usually people think, "The doctor recommended he go to hospital".

That is one example of the subjunctive.

What I want to look at today is the word "wish",

the verb "to wish", and how it is used,

because this is sometimes very confusing to students.

So, here I have a few examples of how to use the verb "wish".

"I wish I were rich." "He wishes he were taller." So,

the first thing you notice, I'm using "were",

not "was". Now, why? Because.

I'm sorry to say it like that,

but that's how it is.

Always use "were". Never use "was".

I, you, he, she, it, they,

we, "were", always. "I wish it would rain",

now here we're talking about an action verb,

"rain", like, "to come down", "rain",

so we use "would". "Bill Clinton wishes Hillary would be President".

Notice the capital P because President is a title here.

It's specific. So, this is called the subjunctive voice.

What we are talking about when we use the verb "wish" is a hypothetical.

What does hypothetical mean? Hypothetical means imaginary.

It's not real. So, anytime we use the verb "wish",

we're talking about something that isn't true and can't be true.

If it can be true, you'll probably use the word "hope",

but that's another story. So, how do we construct this? How do we set up

sentences? I'm going to write this down for you in a second and we'll look

at how to do this.

First, let's look at how we construct a sentence using "wish".

We begin with our subject, of course,

our verb "wish", and then we always have to remember to go one tense back.

What does that mean? If you have a present tense verb in the real situation,

when you talk about "wish", you talk about simple past.

If the real situation is simple past,

the "wish" would be past perfect,

because it's two pasts back.

Future, again, would become "would".

Let's look at these examples.

"Right now, I am not rich." This is the real situation.

This is the fact. So, "I wish I were rich".

The "am" present becomes "were" past.

Again, remember, always "were", never "was".

That's the main thing to remember with "wish".

High school, "I didn't study hard in high school.

I was a very bad student." You are a very good student.

That's why you come here, right? I didn't study hard in high school,

so "I wish I had studied harder",

simple past, past perfect. I go one step back.

"It will by dry tomorrow", like,

"The air will be very dry,

sunny, hot, etc." Two ways that I can speak about it.

I can wish it would rain.

I can use the action verb,

but the "will" becomes "would".

Or "I wish it would be rainy tomorrow." If I want to maintain the "be"

verb, I still use the "would".

I just add the "be", go to the adjective "rainy",

and talk about the hypothetical situation.

So, again, two very important things to remember about using "wish".

One, anything you say with the "wish" verb is not real.

Two, anything you say with the "wish" verb you're going back one tense from the

real situation, and always remember "were" not "was".

That's the main thing. So some of you will be taking whatever test,

you're taking, IELTS, TOEFL, etc.

- TOEIC. The subjunctive, this is a very common question on any test that has

a grammar section. It's almost guaranteed you'll have one question about "wish",

and this especially is what they will be testing you on,

the "were" not the "was".

Now, many native speakers will say,

"I wish I was rich." You know what? That's okay for them to say.

They're native English speakers. It's not correct.

You want to be correct, you will say "were".

If you're not exactly clear about all this,

go to engvid.com. There's a quiz.

You can have more examples and test yourself and ask questions there.

See you soon. Thanks.