We 'wish' you a Merry Christmas

As it’s nearly Christmas, we thought we’d give you a grammar gift - the basic uses of 'wish'! Wish is a word you will hear a lot at this time of year as people want to offer other people positive feelings for the festive season.


Use 1
We use the verb wish to say that we want someone to have something positive, happy or exciting in the future.

I wish you good luck
I wish you a merry Christmas
I wish you happiness in your new home

The basic structure is to wish somebody something and for this use, the wish part is in the present but the thing we want the person to have is in the future. For example, I will wish is incorrect because this impliesthat the wish will happen in the future and because the wish is what we feel. The verb is transitive and therefore takes a person noun followed by another noun after it.

I wish him every success (the success is in the future)
He wish her good luck!

If you want to use a verb structure after wish then we change the verb from wish to hope.

I wish him every success
I hope that you haveevery success

I wish you a good Christmas
I hope that you have a good Christmas

I wish you good luck in your exam
I hope that you have good luck in your exam

Use 2
However, the more common use of the verb wish is to talk about things we would like to be different from how they are now and that we have regrets about the present situation. This use is also common at this time of year, as people use this structure to talk about how they would like to change their lives in the New Year. People make New Year’s resolutions about how they would like their lives to be different in the following year (we will write more about his in January).

I wish I was rich!
I wish I didn’t have to buy so many Christmas presents for my family.
I wish I could do all of my Christmas shopping online.

Although we are thinking about the present, we are imagining so the past form is used.  The past form shows that we are imagining a different situation from the actual one. Notice that in more formal usage we can also say I wish I were… to emphasise the situation is imaginary.

Use 3
If you want to talk about things you wish were different in the past, the verb form following wish is had + the past participle. This structure is also heard a lot around Christmas, because people often reflect on what they have done and regretthings they did or didn’t do or now wish they had done differently.

I’m cooking Christmas lunch for my family. I wish I hadn’t offered to cook Christmas lunch!
I wish I had bought that gift when I saw it.
I wish I had achieved more this year.

I hope that this post has made wishes a bit clearer for you and I’d like to suggest that you try and use or notice someone else using one of these  wish structures over the Christmas period.

I’d also like to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. 

Glossary
the festive season (n) -  the Christmas and New year period
to imply (v) -  if a word implies something it gives this meaning without saying or suggesting it directly
transitive(adj) - a transitive verb must have an object. Transitive verbs are marked [T] in most dictionaries 
therefore(conj) - as a result of something that has just been spoken about
to reflect (v) -  to think carefully about something
to regret(v) -  to feel sorry about something you have done and wish you had not done it

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