Archive for March 3, 2010

the difference between words: wish and hope


There is a lot of confusion about the difference between the words “wish” and “hope” so I would like to clear it up in today’s blog entry. The word “hope” is used to talk about possible situations that we desire in the past, present or future. The important thing to note is that these situations are POSSIBLE. For example:

I hope you had a good time at the party last night.

I haven’t looked outside yet. I hope it’s not raining.

I hope you have a great day.

I hope you’re not going to go to the movie without me.

I hope my boss will give me a promotion this year.

I hope my boss gives me a promotion this year.

The last two examples are about the future. In English, we can use the future tense or the present tense after the word “hope” to talk about the future. Both are natural.

On the other hand, “wish” is used to talk about situations that we desire, but which are the opposite of the current reality or which are impossible. We can use wish + past tense to talk about our situation right now. Even though we use the past tense, we are NOT talking about the past. For example:

I wish I had a car. (In reality, I don’t have a car now, but I want one).

I wish I didn’t have to work tomorrow. (In reality, I have to work tomorrow, but I don’t want to).

I wish I were tall. (In reality, I’m short, but I want to be tall).

I wish I could play the piano. (In reality, I can’t play the piano, but I want to).

When we use wish + past perfect tense, we are talking about regrets we have from the past. For example:

I wish I hadn’t gone to the party. (In reality, I went to the party, and now I regret it).

I wish I had studied harder in school. (In reality, I didn’t study hard in school, and now I regret it).

I wish I hadn’t gotten drunk in front of my boss. (In reality, I got drunk in front of my boss, and now I regret it).

I wish I had gone to bed earlier last night. (In reality, I didn’t go to bed early last night, and now I regret it).

We can use wish + would + verb to talk about situations that often happen in our lives that we don’t like. For example:

I wish my husband would help me clean the house. (In reality, my husband never helps me clean the house, and I don’t like it).

I wish my children wouldn’t play their music so loudly. (In reality, my children play their music very loudly, and I don’t like it).

We can also use wish + noun to talk about things that we desire for other people. In these cases, the meaning of  “wish” is more similar to “hope”. This way of using “wish”, however, is much less common that the other ways. For example:

We wish you a merry Christmas. (The meaning is: We hope you have a merry Christmas).

Wish me luck on my exam. (The meaning is: Please hope that I have good luck on my exam).

I wish you health and happiness. (The meaning is: I hope you have health and happiness).

Finally, we can use wish + the infinitive form of a verb (this is means “to” + the base form). In these cases, the meaning of “wish” has the same meaning as “want”, but it is more formal. For example:

I wish to see your boss right away.

We don’t have a table available right now. Do you wish to wait?

If you wish to have more information, please let me know.

I hope that everyone now understands the difference between these two words. The best way to really learn them, as I’ve mentioned before, is to memorize the full sentences and then change the small details in order to create new sentences.

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