Talking about past regrets. Both “wish” and “if only” are used to describe a copy version of events that would have happened in the past , so this lesson will introduce how to express wishes and regrets in different tenses.

Use of I wish / if only

There are three distinct types of I wish / if only sentences:

  1. Wish, wanting change for the present or future with the simple past.
  2. Regret with the past perfect.
  3. Complaints with would + verb.

Expressing a wish


If only / I wish + simple past


If only I knew how to use a computer. (I don’t know how to use a computer and I would like to learn how to use it)


  • To express a wish in the present or in the future.
  • The simple past here is an unreal past.
  • When you use the verb to be the form is “were”.


I wish I were a millionaire!

Expressing regret


If only / I wish + past perfect


If only I had woken up early. (I didn't wake up early and I missed my bus.)


  • To express a regret.
  • The action is past.


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