I know that

I wish (that*) I could buy a bike

is the standard way of expressing wishes of this kind. But can the construction below with (if) be correct/acceptable in any language register?

I wish if I could buy a bike

How about this example here? Sorry could not find one with could. Would might be different.

Blood and oil do not mix. We are not talking about oil here no more. We're not talking about that. We're talking about basic human lives, Kuwaitis, Americans, British, you know. You know, I hear these guys here clapping, but you know, I wish if you would air that stuff, people in the U.S., all of them, 100 percent, not 49, not 50 percent of them, 100 percent will clap for that and the rest of the world. I never thought in my life I would call for war, never. But this is- this is not a call for war. This is a call for help.

Source: People Trapped in Kuwait - ABC Nightline 1990 via COCA

This one is tricky to me. It has the wish and might be conditional too.

UNIDENTIFIED-REPOR: Tonight, police need your help. UNIDENTIFIED-FEMAL: I just wish if somebody knew something, please call the police department. UNIDENTIFIED-REPOR: Who took mother of two Tiffany Brown?

Source: Young Woman Dies After Botched Buttocks Injection; NANCY GRACE 8:00 PM EST 2011 via COCA

*Edit: Without that is the informal style of this wish construction. Just to not mislead any ELL readers.

  • 3
    No; the appropriate subordinator is that: "I wish that I could buy a bike". Commented Oct 15, 2014 at 19:37
  • I was hunting for some text in COCA but I was only able to find one citation with would. Would you mind if I asked you to comment on it too? It'll be in the post shortly.
    – learner
    Commented Oct 15, 2014 at 19:42
  • 1
    "If" denotes a hypothetical situation. "If I could buy a bike..." implies two things: you cannot buy a bike right now, and you're talking about what would happen in the event that you could afford a bike. "I wish" serves a similar purpose to "if," except it expresses a desire for something you don't have, instead of merely placing context in a different situation. It's redundant and, in this particular sentence, grammatically incorrect to place an "if" before "I could."
    – Crazy Eyes
    Commented Oct 15, 2014 at 20:17
  • @StoneyB I understand from your wording that the standard way is using "that" because otherwise using wish without "that" seems common. None of the examples from a lesson on the British Council's website used "that ": We use past tense forms to talk about wishes: We use past tense modals would and could to talk about wishes for the future: I don’t like my work. I wish I could get a better job - That’s a dreadful noise. I wish it would stop- I always have to get home early. I wish my parents would let me stay out later.)
    – learner
    Commented Oct 22, 2014 at 6:56
  • 1
    @learner Yes, the normal rules for omitting that apply here. For example, you can't omit that before the main clause verb: that can't be omitted from "That I could buy a bike, I wish with all my heart". (But it's difficult to construct natural-sounding sentences to test these rules―the sentence I just gave as an example is unlikely to begin with.)
    – user230
    Commented Oct 22, 2014 at 8:12

2 Answers 2


No, the addition of if here is not grammatical.

An alternate construction, which you probably know, is:

I wish that I could buy a bike.

Regarding your edits:

Both of your examples revolve around conditional statements. In the first, it is the speaker's hope that, if whatever he is talking about were to air in the US, everyone would clap. You could rephrase his statement by saying:

I wish that, if [US broadcasting companies] would air that stuff, people in the U.S., all of them, 100 percent...would* clap..."

Likewise, in the second example the woman's wish is that people would call the police department if they knew anything about the situation. It could be rephrased as:

I just wish that/It is my hope that, if somebody knew something [about the situation], they would call the police department

In both contexts, the use of English is rather informal because of its spoken nature. The speakers, in both cases, mix up their tenses, and use colloquial construction in their speech.

  • Thank you. Would it be possible to check the post again and comment on what I have just added?
    – learner
    Commented Oct 15, 2014 at 19:46
  • 1
    I've edited my response.
    – nmar
    Commented Oct 15, 2014 at 20:09

The example given in your first quote is not quite the usage you think it is. I don't blame you for mis-parsing it, though; it's a bit confusing, since it's kind of a double-hypothetical situation.

If we strip the statement down to just what the speaker is really wishing for, we get:

I wish (that)... people in the US, all of them ... will clap for that [statement about how this is about lives, not oil].

The speaker sees everyone in the room agreeing with him. He wishes that everyone in the country would agree with him (which they don't), if only they could hear his speech (which they can't).

He's not "wishing if X", he is "wishing that if X were true, then Y would also be true", where X is "you would broadcast (air) this speech" and Y is "everybody would clap for it [because they agree]".

Your second quote, "I just wish if somebody knew something", is an un-grammatical speech, most likely uttered on the spur of the moment by someone who wasn't trying very hard to be proper. But it follows the same basic thing: "I wish that if X is true, then Y will also be true" where X is "somebody knows something [that is relevant to the investigation]" and Y is "they will call the police [and inform them]." In this case she probably should have said hope or ask instead of wish since it's really a call for action.

In both cases, the tenses are somewhat confused, probably because the speakers were figuring out what they wanted to say as they were saying it; if these were written statements, I would expect an editor to clean them up considerably.

  • Thank you @Hellion for the answer. I would like to come back again to this post again (and many of my previous posts). I need some time.
    – learner
    Commented Oct 22, 2014 at 8:01

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