Lindsay McMahon
"The English Adventurer"
Michelle Kaplan
"The New York Radio Girl"

Wish and Hope in English are similar, but not exactly the same. What is the difference between these two words in English?

Today, in #13 of our countdown of the Top 15 Fixes in English series find out how to correctly use the verbs Wish and Hope!

Check out our most recent episodes in this series:

Wish is usually used before a verb in the past tense.  It often talks about regrets or wants.

  • “I wish I hadn’t made that mistake.”
  • “I wish I had started sooner.”
  • “I wish I had a dog.”

We use it to express that we want something to happen, but we have no control over it.

  • Is your dad going to buy you a new car?
  • I wish!

In fairy tales and children’s stories, some form of magic makes wishes come true.

Knowing this helps you to remember to use “wish” when you can’t control the outcome or about something in the past you can’t change.

 

Hope works more for future tense, though it can also be used for the present tense.  It often focuses on aspirations.

  • “I hope to find love.”
  • “I hope I get a good TOEFL score.”
  • “I hope you enjoyed the show.”

Pro-tip: If we don’t know the outcome of something, we use hope. Once we know the outcome and we can’t change it, we use wish.

  • I hope I get a good score on my exam.
  • I wish I had gotten a good score on my exam.

Roleplay

In this roleplay, Lindsay and Aubrey are students working together on a group project.

Lindsay: Ok, the deadline is Friday. What do you hope to accomplish in the next few days?

Michelle: I wish we had started earlier! I’m such a procrastinator!

Lindsay: I was absent the day this was assigned. I wish I had been in class that day!

Michelle: No use worrying about that now. I’m hoping we can finish the artwork and most of the slides by tomorrow.

Lindsay: Sounds good. I asked to borrow my friend’s laptop because mine is broken. I hope he says yes!

Michelle: Maybe you’ll get a new laptop for Christmas!

Lindsay: I wish!

What are your wishes?

What are your hopes?

Tell us in the comments section below!

Transcript

Lindsay McMahon :

This is an All Ears English podcast episode 173, wish versus hope in English. What’s the difference? Welcome to the All Ears English podcast, where you’ll finally get real native English conversation and fluency for business and life. We believe in connection, not perfection when it comes to learning English. Now, here are your hosts, Lindsay McMahon, the English adventurer and Aubrey Carter, the IELTS whiz coming to you from Arizona and Boston, USA.

Michelle :

In this episode, Lindsay and Michelle show you the next most common mistake in our top 15 mistake series. What is the difference between wish and hope and how do you know which one to use? Find out today.

Lindsay McMahon :

Hey Michelle. How’s life in New York today?

Michelle :

Hey Lindsay. Hey Lindsay. It is good. It is good. I hope the weather stays nice for a while though.

Lindsay McMahon :

I know. I know. Yes. The weather is always the key in New York. Life in New York is so exciting, but it’s so much better when it’s warm and sunny.

Michelle :

Yeah. I kind of wish that like, it would be winter, but only for the months of December and January. Maybe like end of November, December, a little bit of January, and then it’s done.

Lindsay McMahon :

Yeah, totally.

Michelle :

I like some cold, but that’s pretty much it for me.

Lindsay McMahon :

I understand what you mean. Because it’s a real subway culture, right, in New York, a lot of walking and it’s hard to through the snow.

Michelle :

It is. It is. Yes. You don’t want to have to do that, but whatever.

Lindsay McMahon :

Yeah, no, no, no. But another thing that our listeners don’t want to do is make the most common mistakes in English, right? We want to avoid these big mistakes. I just did a little transition. Did you see what I did there? I’m not sure how successful that was.

Michelle :

I what you did. No, you did. It was wonderful.

Lindsay McMahon :

I don’t know, but we’ll move on anyway. So guys, we’re in a series here of the top 15, most common mistakes and you’ve heard me and Aubrey record a couple of episodes about the first two. And now we’re counting down. We’re on number 13 out of 15. So what is the common mistake that we’re talking about today, Michelle?

Michelle :

Okay. Today we’re talking about the words wish and hope. Now I just used them. I don’t know if you realized what I was doing.

Lindsay McMahon :

Oh my God. I was too busy trying to make my transition,

Michelle :

Oh, you actually didn’t?

Lindsay McMahon :

And I didn’t even hear you use them. What did you say?

Michelle :

Oh, maybe. Oh, so maybe you were like, why are you like, what are you doing? Well, first I said, I hope that the weather stays nice.

Lindsay McMahon :

Oh, you did.

Michelle :

And then I said, I wish that it would be cold only for a couple months.

Lindsay McMahon :

Yeah.

Michelle :

Oh, you didn’t realize. Oh, see I was so sneaky.

Lindsay McMahon :

No, it went right over my head. It went right over my head. That’s my fault. That’s my fault. That’s a good one. Clever though.

Michelle :

Thank you. Thank you.

Lindsay McMahon :

Let’s pick apart that example then, right? You said, I wish. What was it again? You said, I wish.

Michelle :

I said, I wish that it would only be cold in New York for a couple months.

Lindsay McMahon :

Okay. Yes. And then I hope.

Michelle :

I hope that the weather is nice for a long time, basically.

Lindsay McMahon :

Yeah. Okay. So what is the typical, if you just think real quick, Michelle, as a native speaker, what is the difference between wish and hope?

Michelle :

Okay. Well wish is more like a specific thing that it may be likely to happen, like I wish to have three wishes, like in fairy tales or whatever. Right. And hope is I think more realistic.

Lindsay McMahon :

Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. And then another thing that I think, I think the biggest angle I would say is that wish is usually used more so for something in the past. Right. I mean, you said, I wish it wouldn’t snow or I wish that it would not be winter. There would not be so much winter in New York is basically what you said. Right. And that’s good too. That’s a hypothetical.

Michelle :

Right.

Lindsay McMahon :

I wish there weren’t so much winter in New York.

Michelle :

Something Like that. Right. But you’re right. So we do have kind of like that fairytale feeling for wish. Oh, If I had three wishes, the first one would…

Lindsay McMahon :

Yeah.

Michelle :

But also, if you’re looking for another, I mean that was like a very broad explanation I gave, but if you’re really looking for a succinct one yes, often it’s used in the past tense. Right. So you can’t say, I hope about the past.

Lindsay McMahon :

No, you really can’t at all. So this is the clear dividing line between the two, right? No. Yeah. You definitely can’t. You can’t say, like let’s give some examples about how to use wish in the past.

Michelle :

Right. Okay. So like I wish I hadn’t made that mistake.

Lindsay McMahon :

Exactly. So you would never say, I’m not even going to say it because it doesn’t make sense. We don’t want to teach you guys poor English. So can’t use hope in that example. You just can’t. It’s not functional. I wish I had started studying sooner. Right. Because the exam is tomorrow. Definitely can’t use hope. Right, Michelle?

Michelle :

Right, right, right. No.

Lindsay McMahon :

And now here’s the kind of the fairy tail thing that you were pointing to before. This is like a dreamy thing.

Michelle :

Yeah.

Lindsay McMahon :

Right. What do you wish you had? Do you wish you had any pets?

Michelle :

Oh yeah. I wish I had a dog. I really do.

Lindsay McMahon :

Yeah, because you had a dog as a kid, right? You had a beagle. You told us.

Michelle :

Right. I had a beagle named Petey.

Lindsay McMahon :

Aww so cute. Beagles are really cute. Sometimes they’re kind of like yippity though. Aren’t they? They bark a lot or no?

Michelle :

They bark and they bite. Well at least mine did. He bit.

Lindsay McMahon :

Oh my gosh. Oh, was he a bad dog? No, just nervous.

Michelle :

I think he had like, he was a rescue dog.

Lindsay McMahon :

Okay.

Michelle :

And we think that he had had like, when they rescued him, he was only four pounds.

Lindsay McMahon :

Oh no.

Michelle :

No, no, no, he was, well, it was actually, all right, well now there’s a whole story, but he was like at the shelter and it was going to be his last day. And then this woman came to rescue him and he was four pounds at the pound. So I don’t know how much he weighed when they got him, but.

Lindsay McMahon :

Okay.

Michelle :

Anyway, the moral of the story is I loved having him, but he had some troubles, but I adored him.

Lindsay McMahon :

Oh yeah. You got to love your family dog. I love that. Yeah. I mean, I wish I had two dogs. I have one. I wish I had two, but I can’t. They’re expensive. Having two dogs is a lot. It’s a lot.

Michelle :

Yeah. I am sure.

Lindsay McMahon :

Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. And then there’s, just to finish off wish guys, I hope you’re taking notes here. This is really good stuff. There is one other way that we use I wish in a very emphatic way. What would that be Michelle?

Michelle :

Well, let’s do a little role play.

Lindsay McMahon :

Okay. Is your dad going to buy you a new car?

Michelle :

I wish.

Lindsay McMahon :

I love your intonation there. It’s very clear. So what are you trying to say with that intonation and using, I wish here?

Michelle :

It’s like, oh, I would love that, but it’s very unlikely.

Lindsay McMahon :

Yeah, exactly. Exactly. So generally what’s the general rule here with wish Michelle, would you say?

Michelle :

The general rule is it can be used in the past tense or in a fairytale kind of emphatic expression.

Lindsay McMahon :

Yeah. And talking about the past, things you can’t change that have already happened, when you don’t control the outcome. Or again it’s something you really want, but you know is never going to happen. I wish. Right.

Michelle :

Right. I wish.

Lindsay McMahon :

Yeah.

Michelle :

It’s fun to say that.

Lindsay McMahon :

I think I hear teenagers say that kind of thing a lot. Are your parents going to extend your curfew? I wish.

Michelle :

I wish. Yeah, for sure.

Lindsay McMahon :

Yeah. Yeah. Okay. Let’s go to hope now. Let’s flip it over to hope. What is hope, I hope?

Michelle :

Hope is also, I mean, in general, it’s better for future tenses. I have something in my head as like an exception, but,

Lindsay McMahon :

Oh, sure.

Michelle :

In general, it is better for the future. You don’t really, like in those we gave, hope just wouldn’t work. So it focus on more of like aspirations.

Lindsay McMahon :

Yeah.

Michelle :

And it can be used also for the present tense, but again, it works more for the future tense. So like I hope to find love. So this is talking about the future.

Lindsay McMahon :

Yeah. So now we’re future focused, future or present focused. Before with wish we were focusing on the past and the things we can’t control. Now we’re focusing on the future and the present. So another one is I hope I get a good TOEFL score or I hope to get a good TOEFL score. Both would be okay, right?

Michelle :

And then this one, so this is an exception.

Lindsay McMahon :

Yeah. Oh, those exceptions, they just kill us. We try to set a rule and then we have the exception right in front of us right, Michelle?

Michelle :

Right. Guys, we’re focusing on the basic general way of thinking of these things. So we’ll give you the exception, but don’t freak out. Right. It just happened. I hope you enjoyed the show. That’s kind of a good chunk. But today we want you to focus on this idea of future and past. So that’s what we want to focus on. Obviously there are going to be times when there are exceptions, because I don’t know that there is ever a moment in English where there isn’t an exception. Okay.

Lindsay McMahon :

Exactly. So I think one really good pro tip that could kind of make this really clear guys, is this, if you don’t know the outcome of something use hope. Right. Because it’s uncertain. It’s unsure. But if you know the outcome and it can’t be changed, use wish. Because wish has a sense of, oh, there’s not really anything I can do about it.

Michelle :

Oh I wish. Yes, yes, yes.

Lindsay McMahon :

No control.

Michelle :

That’s a good point.

Lindsay McMahon :

Yeah. No agency.

Michelle :

That is a good pro tip. Yes, exactly. I like it. Well, let’s do this role play Lindsay.

Lindsay McMahon :

Okay. Yeah.

Michelle :

And we’ll go through it.

Lindsay McMahon :

Okay. Let’s do it. So, all right. So, okay. The deadline is Friday. What do you hope to accomplish in the next few days?

Michelle :

Oh, I wish we had started earlier. I’m such a procrastinator.

Lindsay McMahon :

I was absent the day this was assigned. I wish I’d been in class that day.

Michelle :

Well, there’s no use worrying about that now. I’m hoping we can finish the artwork and most of the slides by tomorrow.

Lindsay McMahon :

Sounds good. I asked to borrow my friend’s laptop because mine is broken. I hope he says yes.

Michelle :

Well, maybe you’ll get a new laptop for Christmas.

Lindsay McMahon :

I wish.

Michelle :

Okay.

Lindsay McMahon :

So by saying I wish there, I’m basically saying I’m probably not going to get one, right?

Michelle :

Right, right, right. Exactly.

Lindsay McMahon :

It’s important. Right. Because that’s important to say that too. Right. So this is coming back to the lack of agency. If I had said yeah, I hope I do. It’s a possibility and it’s probably a real likelihood. Right, Michelle?

Michelle :

Right, right, right. And I did want to bring something about hope, right, again, like we said, it can be used in the present tense. So actually the example of, I hope you enjoyed the show. You are still hoping in the present tense.

Lindsay McMahon :

Exactly.

Michelle :

So I just wanted to make that point to clarify.

Lindsay McMahon :

Yeah. That’s a good point, because right now you’re hoping, even though the show happened before, it’s right now that you have the emotion of hope.

Michelle :

Yeah. So I wanted to just make that point.

Lindsay McMahon :

That’s a good point, Michelle. Let’s go back to this role play and just rehash it a little bit for our listeners. So the first thing I said was what do you hope to accomplish in the next few days? Again, forward looking. That’s a perfect example.

Michelle :

And then I said, I wish we had started earlier, right? I wish, thinking about the past. Right. I couldn’t say, I hope we had started earlier. That wouldn’t work.

Lindsay McMahon :

Perfect. So again, things you don’t have control over anymore because they’re done and looking backwards. And then I said again, I’m looking backwards and I can’t change it now. I’m saying, I wish I had been in class that day. Can’t change it. Right, Michelle?

Michelle :

Right, right, right, right. You can’t change it. And then I said, I’m hoping we can finish the artwork and most of the slides by tomorrow. So that’s more future looking.

Lindsay McMahon :

Exactly. I love that. And then I said, I asked to borrow my friend’s laptop because mine’s broken and I hope he says yes. Right. I hope again, forward looking guys, looking ahead. He probably, he might, there’s a good chance. So I hope.

Michelle :

And then I said, well maybe you’ll get a new laptop for Christmas. And you said, I wish.

Lindsay McMahon :

Yeah.

Michelle :

It’s like, that would be great. But there’s very little chance of that.

Lindsay McMahon :

Yeah. This is a great role play because I like how at the end we use that example of the, how sometimes teenagers will use that, right, when they don’t think there’s a chance of something. So that’s really good. Very cool. This has been good, Michelle. So this has again, number 13. Guys, there’s 13 more top mistakes, all right, that we’re going to or 12 more. So make sure you hit follow on All Ears English. Right, Michelle? Because they don’t want to miss these.

Michelle :

Don’t miss it. Why would you do that?

Lindsay McMahon :

Yeah, don’t miss it. Don’t miss it. So we’re looking forward to the next one. And Michelle, thanks for hanging out and talking about wish versus hope. Good topic.

Michelle :

All right. Thanks. I hope to talk to you again soon.

Lindsay McMahon :

I hope so too.

Michelle :

All right. Bye Lindsay.

Lindsay McMahon :

All right. Take care. Bye.

Michelle :

Bye.

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