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I have somehow got confused with the usage of 'I would like' and 'I wish' when talking about the things which could be possible to improve in the future. I read several posts here and on the Internet, also checked the dictionary, but I am still confused.

For example, the context could be the following: I stay at the accommodation, and the bathroom doesn't have any shelves to put my toiletries on. Could I write any of these sentences as feedback for the place? Could you explain what do you understand with the sentences I have written below?

  1. I would like to have shelves in the bathroom.
  2. I would like shelves in the bathroom.
  3. I wish there were shelves in the bathroom.
  4. I wish there would be shelves in the bathroom.

I am confused because I was taught that 'I wish there was/were' is usually used about something that is not possible/is very unlikely to happen. The phrase 'I would like' would be something I would like to have or do at the certain moment. Could it be used as some sort of advice and not mean that I want the shelves in my bathroom?

Thank you in advance!

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There's an old saying, If wishes were horses, beggars would ride. Stereotypical beggars always wish for things they haven't got - and are never likely to get, because stereotypical beggars tend to waste their time idly wishing for things (to be given to them) rather than doing whatever is necessary to actually get them.

That example shows how we usually assume that wishes often don't come true. So I wish you gave me presents implies you don't give me presents (and possibly never will), and I wish it was Christmas implies it's not Christmas (though in that case, obviously it will be Christmas sooner or later).

Saying what you want (or would like) carries no particular implications as to how likely it is that you'll get what you want (that depends entirely on other aspects of the context).


If OP wants to express the idea that in some "generic" sense it would be better if there were more shelves, but that he isn't so bothered about this as to actually want them himself, he could say...

5: There should be / ought to be more shelves in the bathroom
or perhaps
6: You ought to have more shelves in the bathroom (if it's the addressee's bathroom, not the speaker's)

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  • Thank you for your explanation! If I may go back to my sentences - if I say 'I wish there were shelves..' --> I just state the fact that there were no shelves and probably never will. But how about - 'I wish there would be shelves...'? Does it maybe express some kind of more realistic wish which doesn't exclude the possibility to come true? Is 'I would like' usage appropriate at all in the context I described? Regarding 'I would like', my focus is not so much on whether it will be fulfilled, only just to express the wish, so the owner would know it. Your suggestions are very appropriate! – Ronja Oct 27 '19 at 17:05
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    I don't consider I wish there would be shelves to be idiomatically valid English (it should be subjunctive I wish there were shelves). But I think you're expecting too much of ordinary English here. Sure, you can tell your landlord what you want - but how likely that is to actually happen is up to him (it doesn't really depend on how you express your wishes to him). But maybe you could consider saying I expect shelves (I think that's likely, because I demand them) or I don't suppose there could be shelves? (I doubt it, but maybe there's a chance). – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Oct 27 '19 at 17:41
  • Thank you @FumbleFingers for your time and help here! I really appreciate it! Have a wonderful Sunday evening! :-) – Ronja Oct 27 '19 at 19:56

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