I thought I understood the wish clauses but I have just found this example:

Situation: It isn’t raining.
Your wish: I wish it would rain.

Isn't this the situation where I should use the past tense, as this is contrafactual? I have seen many examples with the opposite situation:

It is raining. I wish it was not raining.

Why does the first example then use "would"? Why not

"I wish it was raining"?

EDIT: However, I have also found this sentence in various sources, so I assume it is correct too. But would appreciate some insight from native speakers.

  • The question is tingling my senses! +1 for that! The question is so easy that it's difficult to answer! :P – Maulik V Feb 8 '19 at 7:20
  • @MaulikV :) I hope the example is just wrong :) – John V Feb 8 '19 at 7:21

I have seen many examples with the opposite situation:

It is raining. I wish it did not rain.

If you have seen many examples of this then they are all wrong.

It is raining. I wish it wasn't raining.

It rains [every day in Manchester]. I wish it didn't rain [in Manchester]. (You are wishing that it never rained in Manchester - you want Manchester to be like the Sahara Desert)

Your wish: I wish it would rain. (It is not raining - you want it to start raining in the near future)

Your wish: I wish it was raining. (It is not raining - you wish that it was already raining as you speak)

  • Sorry, you are right, I got it mixed up. The examples I saw were "It rains" (I wish it did not rain) and "It is raining" (I wish it was not raining). – John V Feb 8 '19 at 9:33

"I wish it would rain" is not expressing a counterfactual. It is expressing a desire for the future (it would be understood that the speaker wants it to rain in the near future). It is perfectly possible for it to rain in the future.

As you said, “I wish it was raining” is counterfactual; it means "“I wish it was raining right now (but it isn't)". The "now" that the present tense refers to is vague, as usual: it could mean "right now" or it could mean "at this present time period".


Both are correct; they just mean slightly different things. Consider:

1) I wish it would rain -- it's so hot now.
2) I wish it was raining -- I would have slept better last night.

(1) expresses hope for the future. (2) expresses rue (lack of a better word?) about the past.

There's some confusion because most of the time, if there's no rain when you want it, you wish it was raining AND it would rain. For example, (1) could also be:

I wish it was raining -- it's so hot now.

However, changing (2) like this doesn't make sense:

I wish it would rain -- I would have slept better last night.

You might have to go to the beach and not want it to rain anymore.

  • I am not sure about that because, if it was about the last night, you would need to use "I wish it had been raining" – John V Feb 8 '19 at 9:15
  • Language is flexible; there usually isn't only one correct way to express something. If the duration isn't specified, the past continuous and past perfect continuous are usually interchangeable. See english.stackexchange.com/questions/169279/… – iamanigeeit Feb 8 '19 at 9:55

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