I wish / if only – grammar chart
I wish I did
We can use wish + subject + past simple to talk about things that we would like to be different in the present or future (but which are very unlikely or not possible).
- I wish things were different, but this is the way they are.
- We wish we had enough money to help you.
- I wish I could be there for you tomorrow.
I wish I had done
We can use wish + subject + past perfect to talk about things that happened in the past and that we regret (we would have wanted them to be different).
- I wish I hadn’t quit my job two years ago.
- I wish we hadn’t wasted all that money.
I wish you would do
We can use wish + person/thing + would + infinitive when we talk about situations that annoy us and we would like them to change, or to stop.
- I wish you would stop biting your nails. I hate it when you do it.
- I wish it would stop raining. It’s been three days!
We CANNOT use this structure to wish about ourselves (do NOT use I wish I would).
We can use if only instead of I wish with a very similar meaning. The only difference is that if only is more emphatic.
- If only I was/were a bit taller!*
- If only you had followed my advice.
- If only you would make a bit of an effort. You are wasting your life!
Note that we can use were instead of was with I/he/she after I wish/if only.