Skip to main content

I have question regarding how to use "wish" in its past tense.

I know you use "wish" to say that you want things to be different from what they are.

For example, if you are poor, and if you don't want to be poor, you might say
"I wish I were rich. "

If you said something stupid and you regret it now, you can say
"I wish I hadn't said that."

How about if you were poor in the past and you didn't like to be poor back then but you don't mind being poor now. Can you say
"I wished I had been rich"
"I wished I was rich"
or even
"I used to wish I was/had been rich"?

Similarly, if you had said something stupid long time ago and you used to regret it, but now you don't. Can you say
"I wished I hadn't said that"
or perhaps
"I used to wish I hadn't said that"?

Thank you for your help
Original Post
The Grammar Exchange is basing this response on logic, and on the one reference we've found so far.* (If other readers find additional citations or have a different interpretation, please do post here.).

To wish about the past time, as in the situations you've described, you could say, just as you have:

"I wished (last December 10th) that I had been rich (during my life up to and including December 10th.)"

That might or might not indicate that you would still like to be rich, but it does show that you had the wish in the past.

If you really want to say that you had the wish in the past, but now you don't care about material things any more, you might clarify your statement with:

"I used to wish that I were rich," and add "but now I see how unimportant riches are."

The same with the wish for not having said something:

"I wish (now) that I hadn't said that."
"I wished (at the time) that I hadn't said that. (But, I may still wish that; I may be haunted by the memory of my having uttered those awful words.)
"I wished at the time/ I used to wish that I hadn't said that, but now it doesn't matter"


Add Reply

Link copied to your clipboard.