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I've come across the following passage from Mina Murray's diary (from Dracula ). Mina is worried that her finance hasn't written to her for quite a long time.

No news from Jonathan. I am getting quite uneasy about him, though why I should I do not kno; but I do wish that he would write, if it were only a single line.

What will be the difference between would write and wrote in this case? I, personally, think that original sentence is entirely about the present. She wants him to to drop a few lines, and she still hopes that he'll do this. And with "wrote" it would mean sort of she wants him to have written to her. Somewhat she wants not to worry right now, but it's impossible because she got nothing from him, not a line. I've just shared my thoughts, but I'm not so sure about them. Possibly, someone can make it clear for me.

Many thanks!

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    There is no subjunctive mood in English! I wish he would write is conditional. – Lambie Oct 22 at 22:34
  • The problem is in the word "mood" or what? "The subjunctive form" exists, I suppose, but I've just looked through my grammar book and realized that this thing is really not a subjuctive. I'm not enough accurate with the theory of all languages I can speak (including my native). My bad. Thank you for pointing that! – Sasha Mayer Oct 22 at 22:47
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Consider...

1: I wish you would speak English
and
2: I wish you spoke English
(where "that" is optional after "wish" in both cases)

In many contexts, the two forms would be 100% equivalent and interchangeable (they both reflect a kind of "subjunctive" reference to a "counterfactual" assertion).

But sometimes, the first version will be understood to carry the implication You could speak English if you wanted to [so please do], whereas the second version more naturally carries the implication You can't speak English, which is regrettable.


In practice, few native speakers would consciously register any distinction in the specific context cited. But they might subconsciously interpret that he would write as being slightly more critical of Jonathon (for failing to write), whereas that he wrote focuses more on how the writer herself feels (he hasn't written, but that's no reason to blame him).


It may help to note the implications of using would in contexts without the additional complication of hypothetical wishes - but with negation, so we can easily compare the different "auxiliary" verbs...

3: He would not speak English - By implication, he could, but he chose not to
4: He did not speak English - Maybe he couldn't, maybe he was prevented, or just didn't feel like it

  • Thank you very much for your response! Well, surprisingly, I take it somewhat similar! " that he would write as being slightly more critical of Jonathon" -- I haven't mentioned it in my question, but I also feel it a bit more critical like " he refused to write/ he wasn't willing to write". But I'm still a little bit confused with whether "would" can also carry some "future" hope or the like (apart from past "willingness") , as you also wrote about it, as in case: "I wish you would stop interrupting me == You're interrupting me now and I want you to stop doing this". – Sasha Mayer Oct 22 at 18:41
  • So, does this would-thing imply the connotation that she still hopes he will write and that's more important than the regrets because of he didn't? More specifically, what's that "would" stands for in this sentence: "will" in the sense of "willingness" in the past form or "will" in terms of modal verb for futuring, but being used in the past form because of the situation is counterfactual. I'm sorry to put this in such a weird and mind-bending form, though, I hope, you will get it right. – Sasha Mayer Oct 22 at 20:08
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    Don't over-think this one! As I pointed out, most of the time most native speakers wouldn't distinguish between the two verb forms. More crucially, perhaps, if this semantic distinction was contextually important, any sensible writer would express it more explicitly (because he'd know that if he didn't, it's likely his intended meaning wouldn't be understood). All I'm really saying is that would here at the very least alludes to a "choice / volitional act". (His decision to write, not her wish to read! :). – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Oct 23 at 12:12
  • That's right. Got it! Thank you for thorough explanations! – Sasha Mayer Oct 23 at 14:37
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I do wish that he would write, if it were only a single line

I do wish that he wrote, if it were only a single line

The first sentence talks about tells her annoyance for the present moment.She wishes that things will get better.

The second sentence talks about her regrets for things happened in the past or present.It does not tell her annoyance and may imply that she does not blame Jonathan.

Wish and if only would is used to talk about annoyance in the present moment

Since she is not getting any news from Jonathan, she is getting uneasy and she is annoyed and she blames jonathan.

She wishes to have at least a single line from him in the present.The situation is really annoying for her.

So I do wish that he would write, even if it were only a single line is more appropriate in the context.That might be the reason the writer preferred the structure.

Here is the link which helps you better.

https://learnenglish.britishcouncil.org/intermediate-grammar/wish-and-if-only

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