In the last lesson we talked about using the verb WISH to talk about unreal situations in the present. Things that we would like to change now, but we can’t. In this lesson, we’re going to look at the difference between a wish in the present and a wish in the past. What’s the difference? How does the sentence change?
Let’s use the example I WISH I KNEW from the verb TO KNOW. So as you remember from the last lesson, to make a wish about the present, we need to use the verb in the past, because this is not a real situation. It’s what we call a hypothetical situation, which means unreal. We are imagining this situation. I WISH I KNEW. For example, I WISH I KNEW the answer, I WISH I KNEW the answer. This means I don’t know the answer now, but I really want to know now! Maybe I’m doing an exam and it’s very hard, so I think to myself I WISH I KNEW the answer! Unfortunately I don’t, and I can’t change this situation, because I’m doing the exam now and I can’t check!
Now, imagine the exam is now finished and I’m worried that I did very badly. I think I probably failed the exam because I didn’t know the answer during the exam. I’m now making a wish about the past. So if we use the verb in the past to talk about a present wish, we use the verb in the past perfect to talk about a past wish, like this: I WISH I HAD KNOWN the answer, I WISH I HAD KNOWN the answer. This is now a wish about the past and the past is finished so there is nothing we can do to change the past (unless you have a time machine!) so I say to myself: I WISH I HAD KNOWN the answer. That’s WISH followed by the past perfect, in this case HAD KNOWN.
So, I WISH I KNEW the answer (a wish about the present) and I WISH I HAD KNOWN the answer (a wish about the past). And just a quick point about pronunciation. To make it quicker and easier to pronounce, we often say: I WISH I’D KNOWN, I WISH I’D KNOWN, so HAD is a weak sound.
I hope that’s clear. Good luck and see you in the next class!