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'Hope' vs. 'Wish' - Grammar Lesson

6 June, 2016

What's the difference between 'hoping' and 'wishing'?
Kaplan Advanced English teacher Rachel Burns breaks it down for us.

Hope vs. Wish

Have you ever said (or heard) something like this: I wish I pass my test.

It sounds good, right? Actually, it is a common mistake.

There are many verbs in English that are close enough in meaning that students confuse them. Most of the time, a native speaker will know what you are trying to say, but if you use the words correctly, you will sound more fluent.

A common mistake that many students make is confusing hope and wish.


Learn the Basics

Hope: to desire something good or positive in the future

“Hope” is often used to talk about future events, situations, or actions. For a future meaning, it is paired with simple present tense:

  • I hope my team wins the game.
  • I hope we see each other again.
  • I hope I pass my test.

“Hope” can also be used to talk about something that recently happened and will be decided in the future. In this case, it is paired with the simple past tense.

  • I hope you passed your test. (After the test, but before you know the outcome.)
  • I hope I got the job. (After the job interview, but before you know the outcome.)


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Wish: to desire something that is impossible or not likely to happen

“Wish” can be paired with a past perfect verb in order to express regret:

  • I wish I hadn’t said (I said something stupid, and now I regret it.)
  • I wish I had studied harder for the test. (I didn’t study for the test, and now I regret it.)

“Wish” can also be paired with a simple past verb or conditional modal in order to express an unreal present desire:

  • I wish I had a bigger house.
  • I wish I didn’t have a big test tomorrow.
  • I wish I could learn English faster.
  • I wish I were** taller.

**This follows the same rule as second conditional: the “be” verb is always “were” even when the subject is “I.”

One reason this verb can be confusing is the special expression, “I wish you noun.” This means “I want noun for you.” It is the only time you can use “wish” for something real.

  • I wish you the best.
  • I wish you peace and happiness for the rest of your life.

Test your Knowledge

What is the difference between these two statements?

  • I hope I can improve my English.
  • I wish I could improve my English.

Remember that “hope” expresses something that the speaker believes is possible. The first sentence above means that I want to improve my English, and I think it is possible.

“Wish,” on the other hand, expresses something that the speaker believes is not possible right now. The second sentence above means that I want to improve my English, but I don’t think it is possible.Keep a lookout for our next Meet Our Academic Team grammar post as we pool together handy tips and lessons from our instructors all over the world.


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