I Wish I Were or I Wish I Was - Learn The Differences

english phrases Aug 06, 2021
I Wish I Were or I Wish I Was

 If you’ve studied English, you’ll know that the verb ‘to be’ has many different forms in the present and the past.  When the subject is ‘I,’ we usually only have one option to form the past tense of the verb ‘to be:’ ‘I was…’


However, there is one scenario when we break these rules in English and use ‘I were’ instead of ‘I was.’  You’re guaranteed to hear native English speakers say, “well, if I were you…” or “I wish I were…” and, if I were you, I’d continue reading this blog to find out why.


I Wish I Were

‘I wish I were…’ is a sentence structure that we use in English to express a want or desire.  The want or desire is unreal, impossible or only potentially possible.  We simply think about and express our desire for a situation we wish were true in the present or future.  


What Is The Meaning Of I Wish I Were?

‘I wish I were…’ forms the subjunctive mood in English.  The subjunctive mood expresses something that is wanted or desired but is not immediately possible.  The subjunctive mood is used when the speaker does not think their desire is possible in the immediate present or near future. 


We use ‘were’ instead of ‘was’ in this grammar structure because we are not talking about the past.  We are talking about a desire in the present that we know is not possible.  


It’s important to remember that  a wish about a hypothetical desire is not the same as a happy birthday wish.  ‘I wish I were…’ means that you would prefer a different situation to be true.  ‘I wish you a happy birthday,’ means I hope you have a happy birthday.  Of course, you have no control over whether the person has a happy birthday or not, but you can want it to be true for them anyway.


Examples of The Phrase I Wish I Were 

“I wish I were taller.”

“I wish I were smarter.”

“I wish I were funnier.”

“I wish I were prettier.”

“I wish I were more handsome.”

“I wish I were 10 years older.”

“I wish I were younger.”

“I wish I were able to go.”

“I wish I were with you now.”

“I wish I weren’t working.”

“I wish I were at the beach.”


I Wish I Was

‘I wish I was…’ is not entirely incorrect.  No one will misunderstand you or the meaning of your sentence if you say “I wish I was taller.” But “I wish I was…” also has another use and meaning.  


We should only use ‘was’ to talk about past situations that we desired to be true.   “I wish I was taller when I was in school,” or “I wish I was there,” sound like the speaker is talking about the past and a desire in the past instead of a desire in the present.



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I Wish I Was or I Wish I Were

The grammatically correct form to talk about hypothetical situations that you desire or want to be true is ‘I wish I were…’  It may seem strange, but it is grammatically correct and commonly used by native English speakers.  All native English speakers consider this form to be correct and formal. 


I Wish I Were There

‘I wish I were there’ is a sentence you can use to express your desire to be in another place.  At the time of speaking, you and the person you are speaking to are in different places, cities, or countries and you are expressing your desire to be there instead of here.  The situation is not possible because you are not there and are not able to be there - but you want the other person to know that you want to be there with them.


Wish I Was There or Wish I Were There

“I wish I was there,” and “I wish I were there,” have subtle differences in meaning.  If you say “I wish I was there” to someone who you are not presently with then your meaning will be clearly understood.  However, ‘I wish I were there,’ is clear both in and out of context.

It’s important to remember that all meaning is derived from context so either form is correct.  They are both correct in the sense that your meaning will be understood.

However, “I wish I were there,” is grammatically correct and makes it clear that you are speaking about hope or desire in the present time.  “I wish I was there” could mean that you would have liked to have been at a place in the past.


For example:

Person 1: “I am at Disneyworld.”

Person 2: “That’s so cool! I wish I were there.”


Person 1: “I went to Disneyworld last week.  It was great!”

Person 2: “I wish I was there.  I feel like I’ve missed out.”


Wish I Was With You

“I wish I was with you” means “I wish I had been with you at that time in the past.”  It’s an easier way to express a wish or desire about the past without using the past perfect tense.  “I wish I was with you” simply means that you wanted to be with another person in the past but you were unable to be there.  


I Wish I Was There With You

“I wish I was there with you” means that you wanted to be at a place at a certain time with someone else.  You didn’t only want to be with the person, but you also wanted to be at the same place the person was at in the past.  


I Wish It Were or I Wish It Was

“I wish it were…” is correct when expressing a want or desire.  Grammatically, ‘were’ must be used with all subjects when creating the subjunctive mood.  You will never go wrong when using ‘were’ with ‘it’ in the subjunctive mood.  There is never a time when ‘I wish I were…’ or ‘I wish it were…’ would be considered incorrect when expressing a desire or want.


Wish We Were There

‘Were’ is used with all subjects to form the conjunctive mood.  ‘Wish we were there,’ simply means that my friends and I wish we were in another place at the time of speaking.  “Wish we were there,” is the correct form to express a want or desire as a group.


I Wish I Was An

“I wish I was an…” can be used to talk about something that you wish you had been true in the past.  We can also use this form to express an unreal desire, but it’s not as clear as “I wish I were an…”  



“I wish I was an astronaut in 1969.”

“I wish I was an architect when they designed this building.”

“I wish I was an artist during the renaissance.”


I Wish I Was One Of Them

“I wish I was one of them” means “I wish I had been one of them in the past.”  It doesn’t necessarily mean that the desire or want is still true for the present time.  



“They were the popular kids in high school.  I wish I was one of them in school.”


The speaker is reflecting on the past from the present time.  It is unlikely that they still wish to be one of the popular kids in high school now, but they think it would have been nice to have been one of them during their school years.


I Wish I Were Her

“I wish I were her,” means that in this present time you have a desire or a want to be another person.  “I wish I were her,” comes from a place of dissatisfaction with your own life and jealousy of someone else’s life.  You might use this sentence if the girl or woman is successful, funny and lives a life that you want to live.  


Wish He Were Or Wish He Was

“I wish he were…” is the correct form to express a want or desire about someone else.  All third-person singular subjects take ‘were’ instead of ‘was’ to express a desire.  



“I wish he were kinder.”

“I wish she were more helpful.”

“I wish it were different.”


Correct Grammar for The Phrase I Wish I Were Going

We use “I wish I were going” to express a desire for the future.  It means that an event is happening in the future that you are unable to attend - but you would like to be there.  



“I wish I were going with you.”

“I wish I were going on holiday.”

“I wish I were going to her party.”

“I wish I were going.”