We use the construction "to wish sb + N", for example, "I wish you a happy new year", "I wish you luck", "We wish you every success"

and we don't say "to wish sb + adjective", "I wish you lucky" or "I wish you successful".

However, we do say "we wish him well" and "well" here is an adjective meanings "in a good health".

In some Asian countries, we hope that people are beautiful, intelligent, make lots of money, study well...

How can we use "wish" to express these?

Do we say "I wish you beautiful" or "I wish you beauty"?

"I wish you intelligent" or "I wish you intelligence"?

"I wish you to make lots of money" or "I wish you making lots of money"?

"I wish you to study well" or "I wish you studying well"?

  • If what's being wished is an infinitive / conditional verb-based element - I wish you to / would [do something] - you're just telling someone what you want them to do (which may amount to a request or command). The other idiomatic usage "confers" one of a very limited number of members of certain classes of abstract nouns / attributes - I wish you joy / merry Christmas / all the best / farewell / ... Something like I wish you to be comfortable kinda straddles both those usages, but I don't like it anyway (I'd only say that with I want...). Nov 21, 2023 at 2:08
  • ...and you definitely can't wish someone beauty, intelligence, empathy, self-control, or stature. But peace, calmness, confidence might just be at the margins of "validly conferable / wishable attributes". Nov 21, 2023 at 2:16
  • It seems strange to a Westerner to 'wish someone beauty', unless it's a little girl who you hope will grow up to be beautiful. We can say "I wish you prosperity", which effectively means that you hope they make plenty of money. Nov 21, 2023 at 9:47

2 Answers 2


I’m going to give you what I believe is the most helpful answer to your question:

Don’t say any of those things

The phrases with adjectives are incorrect - if you said “I wish you beautiful,” I wouldn’t really even know what that meant. If you said “I wish you beauty and intelligence,” this is a correct sentence - but it strongly implies that you believe they are currently lacking in beauty and intelligence, which is actually a huge insult.

If you’re trying to give a compliment, I’m not sure why you would even express it as a wish - you could just say “You’re really smart!” or “You look great!”

If you want to express them good fortune for the future, you could just say something like “I wish you the best” rather than making any reference to the person’s intelligence or appearance.

  • And the well in I wish you well isn’t an adjective, but an adverb. The sentence can be understood as saying, “I wish in a manner that would bring good fortune to you.” Nov 21, 2023 at 17:56
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    @PaulTanenbaum I'd say simply that "wish __ well" is its own idiomatic phrase. Cf. "well-wishers." Nov 21, 2023 at 19:15
  • @Tom You might notice that one big problem is that "wish" has a second problematic usage. While "wish you well" shows that it can mean "hope on your behalf," it can also mean "this is a request for change," as in "I wish you'd quit leaving the toilet seat down." There's a Jimmy Buffet song that humorously inverts a common tourist-postcard sentiment: "The weather's here; wish you were beautiful." Nov 21, 2023 at 19:19
  • @PaulTanenbaum The expressions roughly means I wish good things for you", so "well" does not modify "wish". I can't think of any other non-noun that can go in that position, so it's certainly a fixed expression and the word "well" has no clear part of speech within the structure.
    – gotube
    Nov 21, 2023 at 19:40
  • Well, @gotube, I do agree that the best choice is not to assign well to any lexical class… so long as that’s an option. It may not be an option if, for instance, an automatic natural-language parser is obliged to make a least-bad assignment. I did write merely “can be understood as saying,” not something more definitive like “is perfectly analogous to.” Nov 21, 2023 at 19:49

I am in agreement with the other answer saying to never use these sayings in English. They will most likely be misinterpreted as an insult or potentially not understood at all. If the person you're speaking to knows that you're not a native speaker, they might get the point, but these aren't phrases typically spoken in English.

However, I would like to give some close alternatives to a couple of the phrases you mentioned.

  1. The most simple and commonly used, mostly when saying goodbye to a friend in college/school:

    "I wish you to study well" -> "Good luck with your studies!"

  2. A phrase I would really only suggest for a formal written letter to a close friend. Typically a goodbye letter or when you know you may not speak to them again for a long time (with cellphones now, this is not used often):

    "I wish you to make lots of money" -> "May life always bless you."

  3. Another way to state the above if you're speaking to an entrepreneur:

    "I wish you prosperity in your new business venture"

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