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Here is one sentence with the dependent content clause:

I wish him only one thing, that he find what he wants from his life when he reaches adulthood and has become independent.

I used this sentence in another recent question of mine posted here. There I was told that a speaker of AmE would choose the subjunctive construction "that he find", while a speaker of BrE would choose the simple present construction "that he finds" in the same sentence. So, right now, as can be seen from the quotation above, I am dealing with the American construction, that is, "that he find".

So my question is this: if I wanted to turn this whole sentence into a past tense, would I need to do anything with that "that he find" or could I just leave it as it is?

In other words, should it be like this:

I wished him only one thing, that he found what he wanted from his life when he reached adulthood and had become independent.

or it can be just like this:

I wished him only one thing, that he find what he wanted from his life when he reached adulthood and had become independent.

?

  • That AmE/BrE distinction is a tendency, not an absolute difference. There will be speakers of AmE who will use the simple present, and speakers of BrE who might use the subjunctive. But the general consensus is that the subjunctive has fallen out of use in BrE though it may be on the upswing again. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Sep 7 '18 at 10:30
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If you change wish to wished your options include

I wished one thing for him ... that he find what he wanted ...

I wished one thing for him ... that he might find what he wanted ...

Depending on whether he is still searching for his bliss, finds might be viable. It's not clear whether you want to cast everything into the past, or merely the wish. For example, "Last night, when you closed your eyes and made a wish, what was it?"

I wished one thing for him ... that he finds what he wants ...

If the wish concerned someone who had succumbed to a disease ten years ago, and the wish was made before that, while he was still living, and there is no longer a possibility for that wish to come true, then a modal, would or might, would probably be the first choice, and wish could be expressed in the past perfect though that is not a requirement:

I (had) wished that he would find what he wanted

I (had) wished that he might find what he wanted

And you could also use the subjunctive there:

I had wished that he find what he wanted.

But to my ear the simple present is not grammatical when there is no longer a possibility of the wish coming true:

I (had) wished that he finds what he wanted.

  • Can you, please, tell me how the whole sentence should look in the past? Is it something like: "I (had) wished that he would find what he wanted in his life when he (had?) reached adulthood and (had?) become independent"? – brilliant Sep 10 '18 at 21:12
  • I am not certain of your intended meaning. What is "in the past"? If it is only the wish that is in the past, and the wish is simply in the past, then you can use the simple past: I wished he might find all that he wanted in his life. If it is not simply in the past but something in the past as seen, by the speaker, to be in relation to a point that lay, or lies, in its future, that is, in the past's future (which could be in the speaker's past or in the speaker's future), then you should use the past perfect: I had wished that he might find what he wanted .. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Sep 10 '18 at 21:42
  • “I am not certain of your intended meaning” – It is the second case, that is, as you say “it is not simply in the past but something in the past as seen, by the speaker, to be in relation to a point that lay, or lies, in its future, that is, in the past's future”. And I want to see how THE WHOLE sentence would look then, that is, I want you to continue after the words "what he wanted". Did you see the two words "had" with question marks in parentheses in my previous question (“(had?)”)? I am not sure if I need both of them, or should drop one of them, or should drop both – brilliant Sep 12 '18 at 15:09
  • @brilliant: If he still wants it, but you no longer wish it: I had wished that he [find | might find] what he wants (but I've had a change of heart). The subjunctive is grammatical there but has been largely supplanted by the modal. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Sep 12 '18 at 15:49
  • Are deliberately ignoring the parts about reaching adulthood and becoming independent? It's already the third time when I am asking you to put my WHOLE SENTENCE in the past. (Please, read carefully my two previous comments) – brilliant Sep 12 '18 at 17:04

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