How to use “wish”

Wish can be a tricky word to use correctly in English. We use it in three different ways, with three different meanings, and it’s very easy for Chinese speakers to make mistakes.

1. wish (祝) + someone + something

Everyone knows the sentence “We wish you a merry Christmas,” so remember that pattern whenever you want to use wish to mean 祝. “We wish you a merry Christmas” means “We hope you have a merry Christmas”  — but notice that we don’t use a verb with wish. “We wish you have a merry Christmas” is incorrect. Here are some more examples of this pattern.

  • Congratulations on your wedding! I wish you a long and happy life together.
  • I gave my friend a call to wish him a happy birthday.
  • I’m taking my driving test today. Wish me luck!

2. wish (想要) + infinitive

Sometimes wish is just a rather formal way to say want or would like. It can be followed by an infinitive (to + verb), or by an object + an infinitive. Wish is used this way mostly in formal writing, recorded messages, and so on. It’s not common in conversation.

  • Thank you for calling the Grand Hotel. If you wish to make a reservation, press 1.
  • We wish to inform you that the sales meeting has been rescheduled.
  • My supervisor has informed me that he wishes me to be present during the negotiations.

As with want and would like, the infinitive can be omitted if it is clear from context.

  • I would be happy to call a taxi for you if you wish. (= if you wish me to call a taxi)
  • There is no dress code. You can wear whatever you wish. (= whatever you wish to wear)

3. wish/hope (希望) + clause

Chinese speakers often make mistakes with this form, because English has two different words (wish and hope) where Chinese only has one (希望). Wish and hope are different in English, and Chinese speakers often use the wrong one.

When you wish something, it means that you want it to be true but know that in fact it is not true. After wish, we use the past tense (for a wish about the present) or the past perfect (for a wish about the past). When the past tense is used with wish, it’s traditional to use were instead of was for all subjects, but people don’t always follow that rule.

  • I love playing basketball, but I’m not very tall. I wish I were/was taller.nose
  • I wish I could help you, but I can’t.
  • I got a terrible grade on my English test. I wish I had studied harder.
  • I’m really tired. I wish I hadn’t stayed up so late last night.

We can also use wish with would to complain about something.

  • It’s been raining all afternoon. I wish it would stop!
  • I wish my neighbor’s dog wouldn’t bark all night.

(Here, too, wish expresses something that is not true. In fact, my neighbor’s dog always barks all night, and it doesn’t look like the rain is going to stop anytime soon.)

Sometimes we use “I wish” and “You wish” by themselves, with no clause. “I wish” means “That would be great, but it’s not true.” “You wish” means “Maybe you think that’s true, but it’s impossible” (similar to saying “做夢!” in Chinese).

  • A: Are you doing anything fun this weekend?
    B: I wish! I have to stay home and study for my exams.
  • A: I think that girl’s checking me out.
    B: You wish! She’s out of your league.

Hope, on the other hand, is used to talk about things that we think may really be true or may really happen. In the clause after hope, we use normal tenses (past tense to talk about the past, present tense to talk about the present, etc.), with one exception: To talk about hopes for the future, we usually use present tense rather than will.

  • I hope you all remembered to study, because we’re having a test today!
  • Bob didn’t show up to work, and he’s not answering his phone. I hope he’s okay.
  • I hope it doesn’t rain this weekend. We’re going camping.
  • The Yankees are playing the Red Sox tomorrow. I hope the Yankees win.

However, sometimes we do use will after hope, if the sentence might otherwise sound like it is about the present. This is especially common with the verb be.

  • I hope you are happy. (now)
  • I hope you will be happy. (in the future)

We don’t use “I hope” by itself, but we can say “I hope so” and “I hope not.”

  • A: Do you think the weather will be nice tomorrow?
    B: I hope so. I want to go to the beach.
  • A: Is Chuck coming to the party?
    B: I hope not. I really don’t like him!

In summary, the main difference between wish and hope is this: They both mean that you want something, but wish means that what you want is not true or not going to happen; hope means you think it is possible. Compare the following pairs of examples.

  • Thanks for inviting me to your party. I wish I could come. (= I want to come, but I can’t.)
  • Thanks for inviting me to your party. I hope I can come. (= I want to come, but I’m not sure if I can.)
  • I wish I had passed the test. (Actually, I failed.)
  • I hope I pass the test. (Maybe I will pass.)
  • I wish you liked your job. (Actually, you don’t like it.)
  • I hope you like your job. (I’m not sure if you like it.)

I hope this explanation is clear. If there’s anything you wish you understood better, feel free to leave a question in the comments. I hope I can help!

Eton Royal English School
Phone: (04)727-2177
Facebook: @etonenglish


“In an hour” or “an hour later”?

“In” to count from the present

When we are talking about something in the future and want to say how far it is from the present, we usually use the word “in” (not “later”).

The meeting starts in five minutes. We’d better hurry, or we’ll be late!
The meeting starts five minutes later. We’d better hurry, or we’ll be late!

Here are some more examples.

  • Sorry, I can’t talk right now. Can I call you back in an hour?
  • My report is due in three days, and I haven’t even started writing it yet!
  • He just started tenth grade, so in three years he’ll graduate.

In all of these examples, we are counting time from the present. “In an hour” means one hour after the present, “in three days” means three days after the present, and so on.

“Later” to count from a past or future time

If we are not counting time from the present, but from some other point in time, we normally use “after” or “later” instead of “in.”

  • William Henry Harrison became president on March 4, 1841, and died a month later.
  • He met her when he was 18, and they got married five years later.
  • It started raining at about 8:00 this morning, but it stopped an hour later.

In the examples above, “later” is being used to count from a past point in time. Harrison died one month after March 4, 1841 — in other words, on April 4, 1841. They got married five years after they met — that is, when he was 23. The rain stopped an hour after 8:00 — so it stopped at 9:00.

In the following examples, “later” is used to count from a future point in time.

  • I have a math test next Wednesday and an English test two days later. (i.e., next Friday)
  • We’ll take a short break at 3:00 and start the class again 10 minutes later. (i.e., at 3:10)
  • I finish work at 5:00, and I’ll be home 20 minutes later. (i.e., at 5:20)

“In” to say how much time is needed

There’s another common use of “in” + time expression. We can use it to say how much time is needed to do something. This could be in the past or future, or in general.

  • Roger Bannister was the first person to run a mile in less than four minutes.
  • I have some things to do tomorrow, but they won’t take much time. I should be able to finish in about an hour.
  • Puppies usually reach their adult weight in one to three years.

“Later” without a time expression

If we use “later” without a time expression, it just means “sometime in the future.” It doesn’t say exactly when. Usually the main meaning is “not now.”

  • I don’t have time to wash the dishes now. I’ll do it later.
  • I have to go now. Talk to you later.

I hope you’re finding these posts helpful. I’ll be posting another one in a few days. See you all later!

Eton Royal English School
Phone: (04)727-2177
Facebook: @etonenglish

Come or go?

Chinese has words corresponding to “come” (來) and “go” (去), but the way they’re used is a little different from English. For this reason, using the English words correctly can be a challenge for Chinese speakers. Let’s go over some of the basic rules.

1. Come here. Go away!

The first and simplest rule is that we use “come” when we’re talking about “here” and “go” when we’re talking about other places — but “here” could be “here” for the speaker or “here” for the listener. Look at the example conversation below. Ann is speaking to her boss on the phone. Ann is at home, and the boss is at the office.

Ann: Hi, boss. It’s me, Ann. I’m really sorry, but I can’t come to the office this morning. A repairman is coming to fix my air conditioner at 10:00, and I have to be here when he comes.

Boss: But Mr. Chen is coming this morning! He’s an important customer, so I want you to be here. Can’t you ask the repairman to come in the afternoon?

Ann: I already asked him, but he can’t. He has to go to Taichung in the afternoon. Maybe I can go to Mr. Chen’s company this afternoon and talk to him there.

Boss: Yes, that should be okay.

Notice that both Ann and her boss use “come” when they talk about Ann’s home (“here” for Ann) and the office (“here” for the boss). When they talk about other places (Taichung and Mr. Chen’s company), they use “go.”

2. Come with me/you

We also use “come” to talk about accompanying the speaker or the listener somewhere.

  • I’m going to the park. Do you want to come with me?
  • Where are you going? Can I come, too?

3. Go = leave, come = arrive

If you mention a specific time with “go,” it should be the time you leave. If you mention a specific time with “come,” it should be the time you arrive.

  • I usually go to work at 7:45 and arrive at 8:00.
  • I leave work at 5:00 this evening, so I’ll probably come home at about 5:15.

4. Bring / take

The difference between “bring” and “take ” is similar to the difference between “come” and “go.” You bring things when you come, and you take things when go.

  • When you come to class next week, please remember to bring a pencil.
  • When you go home, don’t forget to take your pencil.
  • When my dad comes home from a business trip, he always brings gifts for us.
  • When I go out, I always take my cell phone.

If you’d like to learn more about English grammar and usage, just come to Eton You’ll learn a ton!

Eton Royal English School
Phone: (04)727-2177
Facebook: @etonenglish



“Try to + V” vs. “try + Ving”

Do you ever feel confused about the difference between “try to + V” and “try + Ving”? Try reading this post and see if it helps. I’ll try to explain everything clearly.

When you try to do something, you make an effort, and you hope you will be able do it. Maybe you will be able to do it, and maybe you won’t.

  • Sorry I’m late. I’ll try to be on time in the future.
    (I hope I can be on time, but I can’t be sure; maybe I’ll be late again.)
  • I’m trying to find my keys. Have you seen them anywhere?
    (I hope I can find my keys, but I can’t be sure; maybe I won’t find them.)

When you try doing something, you just do it. Maybe it will have the effect you want, and maybe it won’t.

  • I have a headache. I’ll try taking some Panadol.
    (I’ll take some Panadol. I hope it will make me feel better, but I can’t be sure; maybe it won’t help.)
  • A: I don’t understand this word.
    B: Have you tried looking it up in a dictionary?
    (You can look it up. I hope that will help you understand it, but I can’t be sure; maybe it won’t help.)

Compare these pairs of examples. What’s the difference?

    • I tried to open the window, but it’s stuck.
    • I tried opening the window, but it’s still hot in here.
    • I try to go jogging every morning, but sometimes I don’t have time.
    • I’ve tried going jogging every morning, but I still haven’t lost any weight.

In the sentences with “try to,” maybe I’m not able to do the action. I wanted to open the window, but I couldn’t. I want to go jogging every morning, but sometimes I can’t.

In the sentences with “try + Ving,” I do the action, but maybe I don’t get the result I wanted. I opened the window, but it didn’t make the room any cooler. I went jogging every morning, but I didn’t lose weight.

Often we use “try to” to talk about a problem we want to solve and “try + Ving” to talk about possible ways of solving it. You can give people advice by saying “Have you tried…?” or “Why don’t you try…?” with Ving.

  • A: I’m trying to fix my computer, but I don’t know what to do.
    B: Have you tried turning it off and on again? Sometimes that works.
    A: Of course I’ve tried that, but it still doesn’t work!
    B: Why don’t you try calling technical support?

  • A: I’ve been trying to improve my English, but I’m not making any progress. Do you have any ideas?
    B: Well, have you tried taking a class at a language school?
    A: Yes, I’ve tried taking classes, but it didn’t help much. My teacher’s pronunciation was pretty bad!
    B: Maybe you should try studying with a native speaker, then.
    A: I’ve tried doing that, too, but my American teacher couldn’t explain grammar. I’ve tried to find a foreign teacher who understands grammar, but it’s just impossible!
    B: I think you should try signing up for a class at Eton Royal English School. You’ll find just what you need.
    A: Really? Okay, I’ll try that!

Eton Royal English School
Phone: (04)727-2177
Facebook: @etonenglish

In mind / in one’s mind / on one’s mind

“In mind,” “in one’s mind,” and “on one’s mind” are quite similar in meaning, but there are important differences in how they’re used. Let’s see if I can clarify.

1. In mind

“Have … in mind” refers to having a specific idea, especially something specific that you want or expect.

  • You say you want to buy a new phone. Did you have a particular brand in mind?
  • A:  Do you want to do something this weekend?
    B: Maybe. What do you have in mind?
  • I don’t like the color of that jacket. I had something darker in mind.

“Keep … in mind” and “bear … in mind” mean to remember to consider something.

  • How much money do you think we’ll need for dinner? Keep in mind that there are six of us.
  • We need to keep our customers’ needs in mind when we design our products.
  • Thanks for your advice. I’ll bear it in mind.

2. In one’s mind

“In one’s mind” is used to talk about someone’s beliefs, opinions, or imagination — especially to contrast it with the real situation or with what other people think.

  • Most people think he’s very rude, but in his mind he’s just being honest.
  • I can’t believe your son is seventeen years old already! In my mind, he’s still a baby.

In the James Taylor song “Carolina In My Mind,” the singer is “going to Carolina in my mind” — which means he isn’t really going to Carolina. He’s just daydreaming about going there.

The Offspring song “Pretty Fly For A White Guy,” they sing: “Friends say he’s trying too hard and he’s not quite hip, but in his own mind he’s the dopest trip.” (Translation: His friends don’t think he’s very cool, but he thinks he’s extremely cool.) His coolness is only “in his own mind.”

3. On one’s mind

If you have something “on your mind,” it means you’ve been thinking about it a lot, and maybe worrying about it.

  • Sorry I forgot to call you. I’ve had a lot on my mind these days.
  • A:  There’s something I want to talk to you about. Do you have a few minutes?
    Sure. What’s on your mind?

The Eagles song “Take It Easy,” the singer has a lot of things to worry about — he has “seven women” and “a world of trouble” on his mind — but he’s trying to forget them and relax.

But the classic example of this phrase is, of course, the Elvis Presley (貓王) song “Always On My Mind.”

Test yourself

See how well you understand these differences. What’s the best way to complete each sentence?

  1. I couldn’t sleep last night because I had too many things ___.
    A. in mind   B. in my mind   C. on my mind
  2. She says she wants to go “somewhere interesting” on our vacation. I wonder what kind of place she has ___.
    A. in mind   B. in her mind   C. on her mind
  3. I don’t really care what kind of car I drive. ___, they’re all just cars.
    A. in mind   B. in my mind   C. on my mind

Post your answers in the comments, and I’ll reveal the correct answers later.

Eton Royal English School
Phone: (04)727-2177
Facebook: @etonenglish

Using “enough” correctly

What’s the difference between these two examples?

  1. John doesn’t have enough education.
  2. John’s education isn’t enough.

“Enough” can be used in two quite different ways, but unfortunately grammar books never explain the difference. Let’s see if I can clear it up.

1. Enough + N

In example 1, the word “enough” is right before the noun it modifies: “enough education.” We’re talking about how much education John needs to have. He has some education, but he doesn’t have enough. He needs more education. Here’s a longer example, with context.

  • We’re not going to hire John because he doesn’t have enough education. He only has a bachelor’s degree, but we want someone with a master’s degree for this job.

2. N + be-verb + enough

In example 2, “enough” and the noun (“education”) are not together. They are connected with a be-verb (“isn’t”). We’re talking about all the things John needs to have. He has a good education, but education isn’t enough. He needs something else besides just education. Here’s a longer example with context.

  • John has a PhD from Harvard, but we’re not going to hire him. He has a great education, but education isn’t enough for this job. We need someone with at least five years of experience, but John doesn’t have any experience at all. Also, we’d like someone whose social skills are better than John’s.

More examples

Here are some more pairs of examples to show the difference between “enough + N” and “N + b-verb + enough.”

  • There are 25 people here, but we only have 20 bottles of water. We don’t have enough water.
  • We have plenty of water, but water isn’t enough. We should order some tea and coffee, too.

The first example above means that we need more water. The second example means that we need something else besides just water.

  • My doctor says I don’t get enough vitamins. He gave me some vitamin pills to take every day.
  • I take vitamin pills every day, but my doctor says vitamins aren’t enough. He says I need to get more protein, too, and I also need to exercise more often.

In the first example above, I need more vitamins. In the second example, I need something else besides just vitamins.

  • We don’t have enough conference calls with this customer. We need to arrange calls more often.
  • Conference calls aren’t enough. Sometimes it’s necessary to meet in person.

Okay, I think you get the idea now.

Sometimes Love Just Ain’t Enough

There’s an old (1992) song by Patty Smyth and Don Henley called “Sometimes Love Just Ain’t Enough.” (“Ain’t” is an informal word that can mean “isn’t,” “aren’t,” or “am not.”)

Chinese speakers might easily misunderstand what the song is about. They think “love just [isn’t] enough” means “We don’t have enough love” or “We don’t love each other enough.”

Actually, the song is about two people who love each other very much — maybe too much — but love isn’t enough. They love each other, but there’s some other reason they can’t be together. Maybe it’s a problem about money or about their families or something like that. They don’t need more love; they already have plenty of love. They need something else besides just love.

But there’s a danger in loving somebody too much,
And it’s sad when you know it’s your heart you can’t trust.
There’s a reason why people don’t stay where they are.
Baby, sometimes, love just ain’t enough.

I think that’s enough explanation — but sometimes explanation isn’t enough. Maybe you should just listen to the song!

Eton Royal English School
Phone: (04)727-2177
Facebook: @etonenglish

Thanks for…

When you’ve just finished a speech or presentation, what do you say to the audience? “Thank you for your listening,” right? Wrong! It’s a very common mistake in Taiwan.


If you want to thank people for something they did, or for their attitude, you can use these two patterns:

1. Thanks / Thank you + for + Ving

  • Thanks for listening.
  • Thank you for helping me.
  • Thanks for being such a good friend.
  • No, I don’t need any help, but thanks for asking.

2. Thanks / Thank you + for your + N

  • Thank you for your time.
  • Thank you for your attention.
  • Thanks for your patience.
  • Thank you for your assistance.

If you want to thank people for giving you something, you can use this pattern:

3. Thanks / Thank you + for the + N

  • Thanks for the information. It was very helpful.
  • Thank you for the flowers.
  • Thanks for the meal.
  • Thank you for the generous gift.

NOTE: Sometimes the same word can be used as a gerund (Ving) or a noun (N). For example, “understanding” and “warning” are often used as nouns.

  • Thanks for understanding how i feel. (Ving)
  • Thank you for your understanding. (N)
  • Thanks for warning us about the scam. (Ving)
  • Thanks for the warning. (N)

Any questions? Post a comment. Thanks for reading!

Eton Royal English School
Phone: (04)727-2177
Facebook: @etonenglish