I read the two sentences below and I am confused as to which one is more appropriate.

  1. I wish you to be mine.

  2. I want you to be mine.

The word wish refers to desire and the word want refers to need. Now I do not understand if both are proper or not. Any suggestions?

  • Is "I wish you to be mine" gramatically correct? AFAIK, the subjunctive is required here: "I wish you were mine". Jul 16, 2019 at 15:55

5 Answers 5


I agree with all of the answers that have been posted so far; but I think an important factor has been overlooked.

The expression I wish [PERSON] to [VERB] &c is for all practical purposes dead in Present-Day English.

COCA, the Corpus of Contemporary American English, "contains more than 450 million words of text and is equally divided among spoken, fiction, popular magazines, newspapers, and academic texts. It includes 20 million words each year from 1990-2012." Over that period it records only 24 uses of I wish you to. Of these, 1 is a quotation from Cardinal Newman (1801-1890); 1 is from an interview with an Afghan diplomat; the remaining 22 are from works of fiction, all of which are either historical novels or quasi-historical fantasies.

In contrast, COCA finds 118 instances of I wish you would and 221 instances of I wish you were, both collections including many spoken, journalistic and academic uses. And it finds more than five thousand instances of I want you to.

The results from BNC, the British National Corpus, are similar.

As user3169 says, wish implies "something that may not be likely to occur, or something that is not likely to be within one's control". Consequently, it is no longer used with indicative clauses, only with 'subjunctives': counterfactual and hypothetical propositions.


Wish can be a desire or need, but is implied to be something that may not be likely to occur, or something that is not likely to be within one's control. For example

I wish I were a millionaire.
If I wish upon a star, it may come true.
I am wishing for a bicycle for Christmas. (This depends on the action of another person, which I cannot control.)

Also wish is used more in emotional contexts, like

I wish you were mine, because I love you.

On the other hand, want is more of a logical or physical desire or need, that is implied to be something that may occur, or is within one's control to occur. For example

I want a new computer.

You could say

I want you to be mine

but it would likely to be considered emotionally detached, as in

I want you to be mine, because you are rich.

  • 1
    It might be considered very direct rather than detached, depending on the circumstances. I can see it being either romantic or (more likely) creepy.
    – user230
    Mar 18, 2013 at 11:35
  • 1
    "I want you" is used all the time in a romantic-desire (or more specifically sexual-desire) sense. However, it's not usually followed by any explicit explanation of what you're wanted for.
    – Martha
    Mar 18, 2013 at 19:19

I think it's worth pointing out that - no matter if we are wishing or wanting - the expression "be mine" can easily sound creepy, possessive, or insecure. It's okay on a valentine (because we don't interpret everything in a valentine as literal fact), and it might be okay in a song (because we sing lyrics akin to poetry, not how we'd talk at the lunch table). If I were to approach a woman and say, "I want you to be mine," there's a decent chance I'd be answered with a restraining order instead of a date.

If we're talking about "appropriate" conversation, I'd have to recommend:

I'd like to go out with you sometime.


I'd like to get to know you better.

before I'd use either of the two options listed in the question.

That said, if I had to choose between the two verbs in the context of a budding relationship, I think want sounds more demanding than wish. Wish conveys a spirit of wistfulness and pining; I'd say it's close in meaning with:

I'm longing for you to be mine.

Want in this context sounds more primal or perhaps immature - like a child about to have a tantrum if he doesn't get his way. I want you to be mine might work in the context of a movie script, just before a steamy lovemaking scene, but I'd strong caution anyone against using the word "want" in the context of revealing emotional desires in casual conversation, especially for the first time with someone of the opposite sex.


As others have said, "wish" is normally used for things outside your control, often for things that are unlikely to ever happen. "Want" is more general, but typically implies that it is within your control and is achievable.

If you say, "I wish I had X", you are indicating that there is little or nothing you can do to get it. You would like to have it but it is beyond your power.

So if you told a girl, "I wish you to be mine", this would imply that you don't think it's going to happen, like she is from a different culture or social class, or someone with her money, good looks or whatever could easily find a man more desirable than you. But "I want you to be mine" implies that you believe this is a realistic possibility.


Imagine yourself across a street and suddenly a Ferrari zooms off. Then you would say:

"I wish I had one." Because this car is far beyond your reach (as in money).

Now say something achievable passes by, then you will use "I want one."

  • But I want the correct sentence from the above two.
    – Haze
    Mar 18, 2013 at 10:50
  • @komalh: They are both correct; they simply mean two different things, and convey two different messages.
    – J.R.
    Mar 18, 2013 at 16:19

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .