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  1. I wish I would have a dog.

  2. I wish I had a dog.

What's the difference between the two. I was told the first one is to describe something unreal. The second one is something you would like to change. But I think the first one includes this kind of feeling that you want the situation to be changed too.

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2 Answers 2

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The first response sounds off to me, while the second sounds perfectly fine. So, I will begin with the second:

I would agree that you would say "I wish I had a dog" in a situation where you don't have a dog and something happens that prompts you to say this - perhaps you see your neighbours playing with their dog and you wish you could do that too. You regret that you cannot experience the same pleasure of having a dog in the current moment.

So, going back to the first sentence: rather than "I wish I would have a dog", I might say "I wish I had had a dog", which has the meaning of wanting to own a dog but at a specific time in the past. "I wish I had had a dog as a child" make this sense of it being a past regret more obvious. Interestingly enough, this sentence can also be shortened to "I wish I had a dog as a child" and it would have the same meaning.

This brings me to the conclusion that the second sentence by itself can be interpreted in various ways, and that you can change your intended meaning through adding details. Your intended meaning can also be inferred from the context - from example, if you had been talking about childhood regrets, then it is a regret of the past.

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  • Thanks a lot! But according to this websitehttp://learnenglish.britishcouncil.org/en/quick-grammar/wish-and-if-only
    – Kequan Xu
    May 9, 2017 at 11:27
  • @KequanXu Following the link tells me that the page cannot be found. :( What did you mean to show or tell me?
    – tamayura
    May 9, 2017 at 17:57
  • Oh,sorry for that. The page said that we use wish + would to talk about something in the present that we would like to change-usually something that we find annoying. For example, I wish it would rain. But we can only use wish+would to talk about things we can't change. But I do think if I use past simple tense can also indicate that I feel regretful or want to change the situation. So what is the difference between using past simple tense and would do? Which one is more common?
    – Kequan Xu
    May 9, 2017 at 20:28
  • If I said "I wish it would rain", I would mean that I hope it will rain soon. I would not say I particularly regret anything. If I wanted to express my regret over something in the present, I would usually use "I wish" + the simple past perfect/past perfect simple (ego4u.com/en/cram-up/grammar/simpas-pasper). For example: "I wish I had gone to the party" (I regret now that I had not chosen to go to the party back in the past when I had the chance). This regret is in the present because of an action in the past, and is because of an action we cannot change.
    – tamayura
    May 10, 2017 at 16:05
  • It is difficult to make a distinction because a regret in the past is usually something you still regret in the present. Also, I didn't quite understand what you mean by "what is the difference between using past simple tense and would do? Which one is more common?" The difference between the past simple and "would" when used to express regret?
    – tamayura
    May 10, 2017 at 16:08
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The first sentence is non-standard English. I have often seen the word "would" used in this manner lately, which I'm sure is where you picked up the example, but it is incorrect. Also, the word "would" in this sentence is unnecessary as "I wish I had a dog" perfectly conveys the desire to have something that you currently lack; using "would have" does not add any clarity or change the intended meaning in any way.

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