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English Grammar Reference: Wish and If only

When we want something to be different than it is we can make sentences with wish or if only.

Wish

Present

subject

wish

subject

past simple

 

I

wish

I

had

a million dollars.

I

wish

I

could

speak Chinese.

I

wish

she

lived

nearer.

It is the same construction as the second conditional. As with the second conditional it is an unreal situation.
Also as with the 2nd conditional, when we use the verb to be we can use the were form for all forms of the verb.

subject

wish

subject

past simple

 

I

wish

she

were

here.

I

wish

I

were

rich.

Past

When we want something to have been different in the past we use the following construction:

subject

wish

subject

past perfect

 

I

wish

I

had gone

out last night.

I

wish

I

had seen

that film.

I

wish

I

hadn't eaten

so much.

It is the same construction as the third conditional. Like the third conditional it refers to a situation in the past which can't be changed.

If only

If only has basically has the same meaning although we use it when we are slightly more desperate.

Present

If only

subject

past simple

If only

I

had

a million dollars.

If only

I

could

speak Chinese.

If only

she

lived

nearer.

As with wish, if only has the same construction as the second conditional, so it is an unreal situation and when we use the verb to be we can use the were form for all forms of the verb.

Past

If only

subject

past perfect

 

If only

I

hadn't gone out

last night.

If only

I

had seen

that film .

If only

I

hadn't eaten

so much.

As with wish, it has the same construction as the 3rd conditional and so refers to a hypothetical situation in the past which can't be changed.