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Hope Vs. Wish

June 19, 2014

After this lesson, I hope my students understand when to use these verbs. Actually, I wish they already understood!

This week our head writer, Tara Benwell, is working on a Discussion Starters lesson plan about Hosting the World, a lesson on hosting huge events like the World Cup or the Olympics. This lesson includes a review of the verbs hope and wish, so I decided to make a comparison chart that you can use in class. I also included a printable exercise sheet at the end. We hope this post helps your students keep the different grammar patterns for these two verbs straight!

Hope Vs. Wish

Hope and wish have very similar meanings. We use them to express our desire for something different from how it is now. In a nutshell, hope mainly expresses a desire that is possible or likely to happen. Wish usually expresses a desire that is impossible or unlikely to happen. To express a future desire, hope usually takes a simple present verb, and wish mostly follows the pattern of the second conditional (i.e., using would and other past patterns). In the past, wish follows the pattern of the third conditional (i.e., using had + p.p.).

Hope Vs. Wish Chart

Download PDF


Sentences with hope and wish are usually followed by a noun clause starting with that. In English, we often drop that from noun clauses, especially in informal speaking and writing. Point this out to students by giving them these two examples, which have the same meaning: I hope that I pass the test. / I hope I pass the test. You may also want to point out that it is possible, though less common, to use hope and wish with other types of phrases (e.g., I hope to pass the test. / I wish for rain tomorrow.)

Was or Were?

Because wish is a subjunctive verb, it follows the same pattern as the second conditional where the Be verb is concerned (i.e., traditional grammar dictates we should always use were and never was, even when the subject is I, he, she, a singular count noun, or a non‑count noun, as demonstrated in the chart above). But should we teach this to our students when so many native speakers ignore this rule? Well, I like to advise my students to follow this rule (since it is the “correct grammar”), but I do point out that it is becoming less popular these days to do so. Whether this is because it’s becoming a fossilized mistake or because English is legitimately evolving away from the formality of the subjunctive is an argument for another day!


Hope or Wish Practice?

Download Hope Vs. Wish Exercises PDF


Part A Part B
  1. hope
  2. hope
  3. wishes
  4. wish
  5. wishes
  1. were finished
  2. is
  3. had helped
  4. pay
  5. would stop


Azar, Betty Schrampfer. Understanding and Using English Grammar, second edition. Prentice Hall Regents, NJ.

Bonus Question

Can your students tell you what tenses and patterns were used in the introductory sentences to this post?


Sentence #1

“After this lesson, I hope my students understand when to use these verbs.”

Verb hope
Tense future
Pattern hope / present

Sentence #2

“Actually, I wish they already understood.”

Verb wish
Tense present
Pattern wish / past
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Comments (50)

Marilena P.(Teacher)

great these PDFs explanation and exercise! Very useful! Thanks

Reply to Comment

Tanya Trusler(Author)

Glad to hear it! Thanks for taking the time to comment. :)

Elisabete (Guest)

Very good explanation and exercise!!! Thx

Reply to Comment

Tanya Trusler(Author)

You're welcome, Elisabete. Thanks for your comment!

Cristel Marcos(Guest)

Thank you so much for the help!

Reply to Comment

Tanya Trusler(Author)

You're very welcome, Cristel!

rith (Guest)

Very good explanation and very good example. Especially, was and were.

Reply to Comment

Tanya Trusler(Author)

That's great to hear! Thanks.

Cindy Beatch(Guest)

Excellent! It is just missing the infinitive form for 'Hope' in the future. ie. She hopes to pass the test.

Reply to Comment

Tanya Trusler(Author)

Great point! 'Hope' is commonly used with the infinitive verb. Thanks for sharing!

Dania (Guest)

Cool explanation, love it ?

Reply to Comment

Tanya Trusler(Author)

Thanks, Dania!

Paulo Eduardo(Guest)

Why is the b1 exercise right answer 'were finished' in the class is in the singular form?
I tought it was 'was finished' the right answer and I tried to understand why I was wrong buut I didn't get the right point, the right idea or better saying, the explanation, so could you help me?

Reply to Comment

Paulo Eduardo(Guest)

Maybe it's because we are supposed to use 'were' for all persons in wish statemnents.

I got it!

Nasim (Guest)

Hi. Would you please explain part B.3. Why the right answer is 'had helped' and not 'helped'?

Reply to Comment

Tanya Trusler(Author)

Hi Nasim,

If this is a past situation, then we can use wish + had + p.p. (see example for Past #1, 'I wish I had passed the test,' in the first chart). So we would say, for example, 'My coworker wishes I had helped him with the presentation yesterday because it didn't go well.'

Wish + past is normally reserved for a present situation (see Present #1 in the first chart). Some speakers might drop 'had' and just say 'helped' in an informal past case, so you might have heard that before. But since it's not the best grammar, I would try to avoid it and not teach it to students.

It would be fine to say 'My coworker wishes I would help him with the presentation' (see Future #1) if you are talking about the potential of helping him soon.

Hope that helps!

Febri (Guest)

Would you please explain, in part 'hope/past' , is this sentence correct? ' l hope he could go to the meeting yesterday' because the form past of 'can' is 'could'
Thank you for the answer

Reply to Comment

Tanya Trusler(Author)

Hi Febri,

That sentence is indeed correct! You can use a past modal or modal expression in place of a past verb.

√ I hope he could go to the meeting yesterday.
√ I hope he was able to go to the meeting yesterday.

Zuriel (Guest)

Tanya, Thank you for a great blog/article...I write a daily journal while I commute to work in a train....and today as I wrote in the journal I wrote I wish but then I stopped and pondered over whether wish was appropriate or hope or what the difference would be....and here I am reading your article .....thank you for clarifying.

All the best

Reply to Comment

Tanya Trusler(Author)

I'm glad it was helpful, Zuriel! Keep up the journal writing. It's such a good way to improve your English. :)

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