It is clear what tense to use directly after I wish, but I haven't found a rule explaining what tenses to use in dependent clauses like in the example below:

I wish they thought about people who would/will live after them (but they don't think about people who will live after them)

The first part of the sentence after 'I wish' is in Past Simple, so I think it would be logical to use past tenses for the whole sentence. Am I right? Or can we use 'will' here?

On the other hand, people will live after them. It's not a hypothetical situation, but a fact.

I'm confused. Please, help.

1 Answer 1


As so often, the choice depends on the context.

If you are talking about two parents who take poor care of their children, you might say:

I wish they thought (more) about people who will live after them.

That's to say that the situation is current. The parents are not taking good care of their offspring but they still could.

If you were talking about people who were dead (or missing, or absent, or moved away, etc) you would say:

I wish they (had) thought about people who would live after them.

This is now hypothetical rather than current. It assumes that those concerned are no longer in a position to consider those who will (or would) live after them (or would have lived after them.)

It's the context or situation that dictates the verb tense preference.

  • Thank you, Ronald!
    – i_yre_b
    Commented Jun 26, 2021 at 19:08

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