Imagine that you will face a big test or competition soon.  In these situations, we often talk about our desire to succeed.  In English, “hope” and “wish” can both be used to talk about something you want to have or to happen.  However, even though these words have similar meanings, choosing the wrong one may communicate the opposite of what you mean!

To see the difference, let’s look at the definition and grammatical sentence structure of each word.

Hope – to want something (possible) to happen in the future.

[Subject] + hope + [object] + [future tense verb phrase]

Examples:

  • I hope I win the race. (I think it is possible for me to win)
  • He hopes it doesn’t rain tomorrow. (He thinks good weather is possible)
  • She hopes the movie is good. (She thinks it’s possible for the movie to be good)
  • We hope you will have a good time on holiday. (We think it’s possible that you will have a good time)

 

You can also use “hope” with a past tense verb.  This sentence structure can only be used when the final result is still unknown.

  • I hope I studied enough for this test. (I think it’s possible that I studied enough, but I don’t know the result of the test yet).
  • She hopes she did well in the job interview. (She thinks it’s possible that she did well, but she doesn’t know the result of the interview yet)
  • I hope I cooked enough food for everyone. (I think it’s possible that I cooked enough, but the meal isn’t over yet).

 

Wish – to want something (impossible/unlikely) to happen in the past, present, or future.

[Subject] + wish + [object] + [past tense verb phrase]

Examples:

  • I wish I had a new car. (I don’t have a new car. I’m unlikely to get a new one)
  • I wish I were taller. (I’m not tall, and it’s unlikely/impossible for me to change)
  • He wishes his boss were nicer. (His boss is not nice, and is unlikely to change)
  • We wish it weren’t raining. (It’s raining, and it doesn’t seem likely to stop)

 

You can also use “wish” with a noun phrase.  This sentence structure has a similar meaning to sentences with “hope.”  However, these sentences are typically used only in special, often formal situations.  For example:

  • We wish you a Merry Christmas.
  • I wish you the best.
  • I wish you good luck.