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Expressing a Wish or a Regret


Use of I wish / if only:

There are three distinct types of  I wish / if only  sentences:

  1. Wish, wanting change for the present or future with the simple past.
  2. Regret with the past perfect.
  3. Complaints with would + verb.

Expressing a wish:


If only / I wish + simple past


If only I knew how to use a computer. (I don’t know how to use a computer and I would like to learn how to use it)


  • To express a wish in the present or in the future.
  • The simple past here is an unreal past.
  • When you use the verb to be the form is “were”. 
    I wish I were a millionaire!

Expressing regret:


If only / I wish + past perfect


If only I had woken up early. (I didn't wake up early and I missed my bus.)


  • To express a regret.
  • The action is past.



I wish / if only + would + verb


I wish you wouldn't arrive so late all the time (I'm annoyed because you always come late and I want you to arrive on time)


  • To complain about a behavior that you disapprove.
  • Expressing impatience, annoyance or dissatisfaction with a present action.

 Would rather


 Would rather is used to show preference for one thing over another, for example:

I would rather eat fish tonight.

In this sentence 'would rather' means 'would prefer'. You could also say I would prefer to eat fish tonight.

The structure uses the verb in the infinitive without 'to'. Look at these examples:

  • I would rather cook than wash the dishes.
  • He'd rather visit London than Paris.
  • We'd rather not go to the cinema tonight.
  • We'd rather stay at home tonight.
  • I'd rather go to the cinema on Tuesday.

You can also see how we abbreviate the subject and 'would'.

'Would rather' can also be used with a past tense but the meaning is present. For example:

 I would rather he played football this year.

The difference is that we have two subjects so we use a past tense. After the second subject we use a past tense.

But as you can see, we are not talking about the past even though we are using a past tense. This is called the Unreal Past.

Look at these examples:

  • I'd rather you went to pick up Tom from school.
  • He'd rather you didn't come over for dinner tonight.
  • Would you rather I wasn't so boring?

Remember that 'would rather' and 'prefer' can be used interchangeably:

  • I'd rather text someone than talk by phone
  • I prefer texting to speaking on the phone.




Now follow these links and do the exercises:






Fuente: Created by Susan Zilberstein
Fecha: 13/9/2020 | Creado por: Susana Beatriz
Categoria: Grammar
Etiquetas: Zilberstein, Susan, 2020, B1+, Inglés, Almagro