In the sentence:

We all wish the snow would stay forever.

Why can't we say

We all wish the snow stayed forever.

What are differences between these sentences?

  • 2
    It's not "would + present". It's actually "would + infinitive". In many cases, the present and infinitive are the same, but a notable example is "would be" ("be" is the infinitive form, while the present forms are "am", "is", "are"). Commented Oct 18, 2014 at 8:03
  • 2
    In American English, they're interchangeable in everyday speech.
    – TimR
    Commented Oct 18, 2014 at 10:17

1 Answer 1


According to Swan's Practical English Usage, Unit 630.4, we can use past tenses in a that-clause after wish:

I wish tomorrow was Sunday.

Note that here the past tense is used to refer to the future. If we want a sentence of this structure to refer to the past, we use past perfect tenses, according to Swan:

I wish you hadn't said that.

In Quirk's Comprehensive Grammar, Unit 14.23 says that "in subordinate clauses following I wish (that), the hypothetical past may be replaced by hypothetical would or by a to-infinitive":

I wish she visited me more often.
I wish she would visit me more often.
I wish her to visit me more often.

This means we can also say:

We all wish the snow to stay forever.

(Native speakers might find this sentence unnatural. It looks unnatural to me.)

I went on reading Swan further and found one interesting distinction (Unit 630.5): Wish ... wouldn't sentences can be used as orders or requests:

I wish you wouldn't drink so much. (meaning, "Please don't drink so much".)


I wish you didn't drink so much. (here, the meaning is closer to "I'm sorry that you drink so much".)

So, in such negative sentences the use of the simple past gives a different shade of meaning compared with the use of the infinitive with the modal would.

  • 2
    I see that footnote in Quirk et al, but I have to admit "I wish her to visit me more often" does seem unnatural to me.
    – user230
    Commented Oct 18, 2014 at 15:01
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    I am not a native speaker. But I found this sentence in Oxford Advanced learner's dictionary - He was not sure whether he wished her to stay or go.. So from this sentence it seems that I wish her to visit me more often is correct. And hence this too seems correct - We all wish the snow to stay forever. Please comment. Thanks in advance. Commented Oct 18, 2014 at 15:08
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    @Man_From_India It seems plausible that there's an AmE versus BrE difference, but I honestly have no idea. You might need to do some investigation with a corpus or two to figure it out.
    – user230
    Commented Oct 18, 2014 at 15:50
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    @DmitryFucintv We can relate this to the "for A to B" structure, from which for is often omitted. A real example from the web, found via COCA: "He's an animal. I don't wish for him to die. I wish for him to have a long, suffering, cruel death." If you think about it as omission of for, then her might make more sense to you than she.
    – user230
    Commented Oct 19, 2014 at 21:33
  • 1
    "Note that here the past tense is used to refer to the future." <== That's not quite right. The past-tense "was" is used for modal remoteness, due to the "wish" construction, and is not used to indicate "past time". The future time is indicated by the word "tomorrow". You can see this in the example "I wish grandma was here", which means that I have the desire that grandma be right here now in front of me--which is the present time. (cont.)
    – F.E.
    Commented Oct 23, 2014 at 5:06

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