Expressing Hopes and Wishes
WHAT IF? A “Better English” lesson on how to use “hope” and “wish.”
March 2021. eflsuccess.com ⇔ [click here for common English abbreviations]
What’s the difference between “wish” and “hope”?
Do you wish that you could speak English better? Do you hope that each lesson will move you toward your dream? Let’s talk about how to express our hopes and wishes about the future. This can be difficult for English-learners if their native language expresses things differently; in some languages, one word (e.g., the Chinese word xi-wang 希望) can be translated both wish or hope! Notice the different ways these words are used in English.
(A) We wish for things that we really do NOT expect to get or do, or to express disappointment in our current situation. Here, wish is used with a past tense verb—often the verb could.
- I wish I could go to Harvard University (but that is not likely).
- I wish I had more money (but I don’t).
- I wish I was smarter (but I’m not).
- I wish I could speak English better (and I’m disappointed that I can’t).
(B) We wish others something good. In this case, wish is used as a verb, and it is followed by a reference to a person (e.g., you, your children, Mother, Billy).
- I wish you good luck. (Wrong: I hope you good luck. I hope you a happy birthday.)
- Parents often give money or gifts to wish their children a happy birthday.
- Please wish Mother a happy birthday tomorrow. Tell her I wish I could be at her party (but I can’t).
- I wish you a happy anniversary.
- NOTE.1: Notice that “luck” is not countable. Some Americans say “I don’t believe in luck” or even think of luck as evil.
- NOTE.2: Americans “wish” each other a “happy” holiday/occasion for everything except Christmas (e.g., “I wish you a happy anniversary!”, happy Memorial Day, happy Thanksgiving, merry Christmas). The British use both “happy Christmas” and “merry Christmas.”
(C) We hope for good things that may come true. Here, hope is used with a present tense verb—often the verb can.
- I hope I can attend Harvard University (and I am studying hard to meet its high expectations).
- I hope we can attend classes together next fall.
- She hopes her favorite store sells more perfume soon (and their website says it is likely).
- Parents hope their children remain healthy all year.
- I hope you have good luck in your new job. (I wish you well in your new job.)
- I hope you have a happy Memorial Day! (Have a happy Memorial Day!)
(Fill each blank with “wish” or “hope”--or wishes, hopes, hoped, etc)
1. I _______________ that I lived in a bigger apartment (but I don’t).
2. They _____________ that they did not have a test today (but they do).
3. He ______________ that he does not have a quiz this week (he does not know).
4. I _______________ I could eat chocolate, but I’m allergic to it.
5. We _____________ you a happy birthday!
6. I’ve never seen snow. I ________ it snows in South Carolina this year.
7. I ______________ I can get a great job after I graduate.
8. I ______________ this restaurant was closer to my home so it could deliver to me.
Try to use words/phrases from today’s lesson when you answer a question, to make sure you can use them correctly. (As always, please do not answer any question that makes you uncomfortable.)
1. Express a hope about something good you expect to happen someday. Why do you want this to happen? (I hope I/we can…, I hope I get to see…, I hope the dorms/airports/stores will someday…, etc.)
2. Make a sentence about something that probably can’t change, but you wish it could. (I wish I/we could…, I wish we didn’t have to…, I wish the dorms/airports/stores were…, etc.)
3. If you could change one thing about your past (something you regret), what would it be? Why? (Try to use “wish” in your answer. Eg, “I wish I could go back and tell my brother…”)
4. If your best friend suddenly said, “I must travel to a different country in 30 days,” how would you spend the next month?
5. Five or even 20 years from now, where do you hope you can live? (anywhere in the world) Why?
6. If you hope to have a great job, marriage or family someday, what are you going to do to achieve this?
7. If you had the chance to give a speech to your classmates (or colleagues at work) for 2 minutes, what would you say to them? Why?
8. What do you hope the COVID pandemic has taught the world’s people? How do you think life will be different because of this virus?
9. If you could have one dream come true, what would it be? Explain. (Use “hope” in your answer)
Exercise answers: 1. wish, 2. wish, 3. hopes, 4. wish, 5. wish, 6. hope, 7. hope, 8. wish
For more exercises, visit https://eslfriend.com/hope-and-wish/
If you have extra time:
If you have time, read and discuss this quotation from the Bible:
“Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness.” (Romans 8:24-26 ESV)
The “anchor” is an old Christian symbol of “hope”; you hope your anchor holds your boat in safety during a storm, or hope it keeps your boat where you expect it to be. Where does religious “hope” come from?
This material was adapted from part 26e of “Successful Writing for the Real World” 2008 by DeWitt Scott & Michael Krigline. ISBN: 978-7-5600-7264-7; Chinese title: 高级实用英语写作; Foreign Language Teaching and Resource Press (外语教学与研究出版社)
EFLsuccess.com; ©Michael Krigline, all rights reserved. This resource was created for our students under my understanding of “fair use” for educational resources. As far as I am concerned, people are allowed to print/copy it for personal or classroom use. See our Website Standards and Use Policy.
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