I wish they did vs I wish they would...

lenkangl

Senior Member
Czech Republic, Czech
Hi, could you please help me with this:
What is the difference between the following sentences:
1/ I wish they did something about it.
2/ I wish they would do something about it.

One of my textbooks says that 2/ refers to "a specific action which you would like to happen". But I think in wish-clauses you ALWAYS want/would like something to happen. Is "a specific action" important here?
Thanks for your answer(s):)
 
  • Thomas Tompion

    Member Emeritus
    English - England
    Hello Lenkangl,

    The meanings here are quite close, and I expect some people will say they are identical.

    In both cases the speaker is regretting that 'they' are don't seem to be doing anything about it. 1. seems more fatalistic: I wish they did something about it sounds less hopeful of action than I wish they would do something about it.

    I don't see that either is referring necessarily to 'a specific action'. Both are saying that they regret inaction, but neither is specific about what sort of action they hope for.
     

    Beryl from Northallerton

    Senior Member
    British English
    No, I don't think that the specifics of the desire are relevant - seems like a strange idea, and for the reasons that you give. The thing that you want to happen is 'something' - which is quite clearly non-specific.

    As a matter of taste (my own personal taste, that is), I don't think I would ever use that "1/" form - but maybe, that's just because I can't come up with a plausible example at the moment.
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    Hi lenkangl

    For me, there's quite a distinct difference, along the lines mentioned by TT. After "wish [that]", the past tense expresses a wish for something contrary-to-fact, the conditional expresses a wish for something that might possibly happen:
    1/ I wish they did something about it > I wish they did something about it, but they don't.
    2/ I wish they would do something about it > I wish they would do something about it, and maybe they will.


    Another couple of examples:
    I wish they paid me £1000 a week (but they don't pay me £1000 a week).
    I wish they would pay me £1000 a week (and maybe they will pay me £1000 a week if I work hard enough).
     

    se16teddy

    Senior Member
    English - England
    They don't do that. I wish they did.
    They haven't done that. I wish they had.
    They didn't do that. I wish they had.
    They won't do that [= they refuse to do that]. I wish they would.
     
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