I wish I would win the lottery

Discussion in 'English Only' started by gethynrees, Feb 21, 2011.

  1. gethynrees Member

    Welsh - Wales
    I wish I would win the lottery.

    Incorrect? Can you think of a circumstance when it could be correctly employed?

  2. owlman5

    owlman5 Senior Member

    I don't see anything wrong with your sentence, Gethynrees. It seems fine to me. What troubles you about it? Is it the use of "would"? Is it the omission of "that"?
  3. gethynrees Member

    Welsh - Wales
    Hi olman5.

    What bothers me is that I'm worried i should only use 'wish + would' to express a desire for different action. I guessed it was incorrect (unless I played the lottery regularly - the different action being 'not losing')

    ie. I wish I would win the lottery (for a change)

    To me I hope I win the lottery would seem more correct. Especially for one who plays very infrequently. Make sense??
  4. owlman5

    owlman5 Senior Member

    I use "would" frequently when expressing wishes, especially those that seem unlikely: I wish I'd get a raise. I always use "would" or "could" rather than "will" or "can" after the verb "wish". Those auxiliaries (could, would) are normal for hypothetical or improbable events.

    I agree that saying "I hope I win the lottery" also sounds fine. I don't think that the frequency with which you play has anything to do with your choice.
    Last edited: Feb 21, 2011
  5. gethynrees Member

    Welsh - Wales
    Thank you owlman5

    One last point. I had learnt that wish +past simple is used for situations while wish + would is used for actions.

    I wish he would stop smoking (action)
    I wish he didn't smoke (situation)

    Is this wrong?
  6. owlman5

    owlman5 Senior Member

    Your ideas here don't sound wrong at all. I think that most verbs that come after "wish" are really being expressed in the past subjunctive rather than the simple past: I wish I spoke fifteen languages. Here "spoke" is really in the past subjunctive, not the simple past. However, most verbs in the subjunctive mood in English look identical to their normal counterparts in the simple present and past, so it's often impossible to tell just from looking at the isolated verb whether it's in the indicative or subjunctive. Other languages clearly mark the subjunctive verbs with different endings.

    In your first sentence "would" replaces "will". I'm not sure about the distinction you're drawing between actions and situations here, but both your sentences sound like good English to me. I would use "I wish he didn't smoke" and "I wish he would stop smoking" interchangeably to describe my improbable wish that he would change his behavior.

    Does this make sense to you?
  7. panjandrum

    panjandrum Occasional Moderator

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
  8. Cagey post mod (English Only / Latin)

    English - US
    "I wish I would ....." is what I'd say if I were talking about something that is under my control.
    I wish I would make fewer spelling mistakes.
    I wouldn't use it about winning the lottery, because that is out of my control.

    (Philosophers have lots to say about what it means to both wish to do something and chose not to do it, and whether that is really possible. However, that question is for an altogether different forum.)
  9. gethynrees Member

    Welsh - Wales
    Hi Owlman, just one last point. It relates to the interchangeability of the two sentences. I understand they both express the same idea however you can't mix and match the structures can you?

    I wish he didn't smoke
    I wish he would not smoke

    (also true in the affirmative)

    I wish I had enough money to buy a car
    I wish I would have enough money to buy a car

    I wish he would stop smoking
    I wish he stopped smoking

    This action vs situation concept is the only link that I've found to explain when to use 'wish + would' and when to use 'wish + past subjunctive'. However, the link doesn't seem very strong.
    I know when to use it, but I wish I were more certain (hehehee!!) in order to explain it to students with confidence.

    PS. Cagey's point doesn't help because it only goes as far as to explain the use of wish + would when the subject is the first person singular.
  10. owlman5

    owlman5 Senior Member

    Well, I definitely see Cagey's point. Using "would" is irrational in statements such as "I wish I'd win the lottery". Irrational though it is, it's a regular feature in my speech.

    Regarding your specific concerns about using a modal or a lexical verb in the subjunctive, I can only say that these sentences all sound equally acceptable to me:

    I wish he didn't smoke.
    I wish he would not smoke.
    I wish he would stop smoking.
    I wish he stopped smoking.

    I never use the "would" version in a sentence like this one:

    I wish I had enough money to buy a car.

    For statements like this, I use the past subjunctive to express a contrary-to-fact situation. "Would" doesn't do the trick here.
  11. Cagey post mod (English Only / Latin)

    English - US
    This sounds very strange to me:
    I think I use the past form when what I wish for are actions that are either on-going or repeated.
    I wish Michael Jordon lived next door.
    I wish the 4th of July parade went down my street.

    But stopping smoking is a one-time thing ~ presumably ~ so it sounds strange to me to use that structure to express a wish that someone stop smoking. [I would not understand "I wish he stopped smoking" as a wish that he made a regular habit of stopping smoking unless there was some elaborate context to support that interpretation.]
  12. timpeac

    timpeac Senior Member

    English (England)
    I think that's right - both your sentences can be followed by "but he doesn't" or "but it doesn't" etc. As such I think it would only work with smoking if the stopping was repetitive, as you say. For example "I wish he stopped smoking when my mother was in the room, but he never does".

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