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Wishes and hypothetical situations

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The tenses with wishes and hypothetical situations.

We use past tense forms when we talk about wishes.

We use would and could to talk about wishes for the future:
I wish I could find a better job.
It’s been raining all week. I wish it would stop.
I have to get up early tomorrow. I wish I could stay out late.

We use past tense forms to talk about wishes for the present:
I wish I lived in a warmer country.
We all wish we had more free time.
I wish I wasn’t so busy.
He wishes it wasn’t so cold.

We use the past perfect for wishes in the past:
I wish I had gone to university.
He wishes he had taken his father’s advice and studied economics.
I wish I hadn’t spent so much money last month.

Hypothetical situations

When we talk about things that we imagine (hypothetical situations) we use present tense forms after phrases like what if, in case, suppose to talk about the future if we think that this is a situation that is likely to happen:
You should take an umbrella in case it rains.
Take your phone. What if you need to contact me?

We use past tense forms to talk about a future that is not likely to happen:
What if you lost your job? How would you live?
They didn’t take a map! Suppose they got lost.

We use would and could for hypothetical situations in the future:
I don’t think I’d like Canada. I’d hate the weather.
John’s coming to visit. He could stay with us. A hotel would be too expensive.

We use would in the main clause and a past tense in a subordinate clause to talk about an imagined future:
I would hate to be in a situation where I needed help to do everyday tasks.
She would never tell anyone if you told her not to.

We use modals with have to talk about something that did not happen in the past:
I didn’t know you had nothing to do yesterday. I would have called you.
It’s a pity you didn’t come last night. You would have enjoyed yourself.
It’s a good thing they repaired the traffic lights. There might have been an accident.
Why didn’t you ring me? I could have come and picked you up.

Lesson by Tristan, teacher at EC Malta English school

Now match the correct phrase for the following:

  • 1. I wish I _.

  • 2. That building is too close to the sea. _

  • 3. You should take a taxi in case _

  • 4. That’s a terrible noise. _

  • 5. This party is awful. _

  • 6. I didn’t know you spoke French. _

  • 7. Don’t you ever wish sometimes that _

  • 8. We should travel by train _