I Wish I Had

Expressing Wishes

Possibilities
What do you wish you had?. JGI/Jamie Grill / Blend Images / Getty Images

The phrase I wish I had is used to express that I would like to have something that I do not have. 

I wish I had a $1 million!

I don't have $1 million, but I would like to have it! = I wish I had $1 million.

You can also use this form to express something you would have liked to be true in the past. In this case we use I wish I had had:

I wish I had had more friends when I was in high school.

In this case, I didn't have many friends, but I think it would have been nice.

 

I Wish I Had - Present Wishes

 Here are some common phrases with I wish I had:

I wish I had more money.
I wish I had more free time.
I wish I had more friends.
I wish I had a better car.
etc.

In the phrase, I wish I had  'had' is the past simple form of the verb 'to have'. Other verbs can be used  with 'I wish'.

I wish I spoke Russian.
I wish I played the guitar.
I wish I drove a Mercedes.
I wish I lived in Seattle.

The use of the I wish I had  is very similar to the second conditional because it expresses a situation which is contrary to fact. Look at these sentences comparing the two form with the same meaning.

I wish I had more free time. I'd like to go hiking more often. = If I had more free time, I would go hiking more often. 

I don't have enough free time to do the hiking. In both cases, I'm expressing a wish about the present moment in time. 

Grammar - Present

S + Wish + Past Tense

'Wish' + the past simple is used to expresses wishes about the present.

Remember to use present simple form of wish with 'es' for he, she and it and 'do / does', as well as the negative 'don't / doesn't' followed by a statement in the past tense. Remember that even though the main verb is in the past, the statement refers to the present moment in time.

She wishes she had more free time.
Do you wish you had more friends?
Does he wish he lived in Chicago?
They don't wish they were bankers.
Jennifer doesn't wish she went to school.

I Wish I Had Had - Past Wishes

It's also common to speak about past wishes with the phrase I wish I had (had, done, gone, played, etc.) Here are some examples:

I wish I had had more free time on my business trip last week.
I wish I had stayed in Florence longer.
I wish I had bought that house.
I wish I had invited Tim to the party.

Like the phrase  I wish I had is similar to a conditional form, but this time the past conditional (conditional three). The use of the I wish I had done expresses a situation which is different from what happened in the past. Look at these sentences comparing the two forms:

I wish I had known his name. = If I had known his name, I would have said hello.
I wish I had bough Sarah a present. = If I bought Sarah a present, I wouldn't have been embarrassed.
I wish I had thought of that idea! = If I had thought of that idea, I would be rich!

Grammar - Past

S + Wish + Past Perfect Tense

As with the present form, remember to use present simple with 'es' for he, she and it and 'do / does', as well as the negative 'don't / doesn't' followed by a statement in the past tense. Next, add 'don't / doesn't' followed by a statement in the past perfect tense. 'Wishes' expresses a present wish about something in the past ('had done').

 

Jane wishes she had gone to that restaurant in New York.
Does she wish she had spent more time with her son?
They don't wish they had gone to the play.
Jennifer doesn't wish she had bough a present for Tommy.