Expressing past wishes


Both wish and if only are used to express wishes and regrets about things that may happen in the present or future, or may have happened in the past. But in this lesson, we will focus on expressing past wishes. The most common way to express past wishes is by using wish+past participle.

Subject+wish+past perfect
If only+subject+past perfect  
I wish+subject+past perfect’ or ‘if only+subject+past perfect’
is used to talk about situations/decisions/actions in the past
that were opposite/contrary to our wishes.


  1. You were too slow getting ready to go out. I wish you hadn’t been so slow getting ready.      
  2. Now we’ve missed the train. I wish we hadn’t missed the train.
  3. I wish I hadn’t promised my friends to arrive on time, because now they’ll be waiting for us.


Verb formMeaning/reality
Positive: I wish I had goneNegative: I didn’t go
Negative: I wish I hadn’t gonePositive: I went

Expressing past wishes exercises 

Put the verbs between brackets in the correct tense

  1. She failed most of her exams, and now she wishes she (work) harder.
  2. I had to get the bus to work every day. I wish I (have) a car.     
  3. The weather was terrible yesterday. I wish it (be) a bit warmer.        
  4. It really annoys me that you never do anything around the house! I wish you (wash up) from time to time.    
  5. I missed my English class yesterday because I went to the doctor’s. I wish I (miss)  it.       
  6. The last bus always seems to leave early. I wish the driver (wait) until the right time before leaving.       
  7. My sister canceled her party last week. She wishes she (not/cancel).        
  8. We went to a new restaurant for lunch and I’ve been feeling sick all afternoon. I wish we (not/go) there.  
  9. The two brothers fought last week. Their mother wished they (fight).
  10. I gave that man in the pub my phone number. I wish I (not/do) that.
  11. Alice didn’t get a good grade. She wishes she (work) harder.
  12. Tom likes football very much. He wishes he (become)  a professional football player.
  13. He was running very fast when he had a heart attack. If only he (not/run) so fast.
  14. She’s keen on computers. She wishes she (study) computer science year.
  15. I am sorry I don’t know how to use the computer. If only I (know) how to use it.
  16. I stayed late at work and missed the last bus. I wish I (not/stay) at work late.
  17. I wish I (not/drink) and beaten Samantha.
  18. I wish it (not/rain)  so much. The garden’s turned to mud.
  19. If only I (not/ park) there, I wouldn’t have gotten a fine.
  20. I wish the council (not/demolish)  that beautiful old house. It was part of the town’s heritage.

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