Lets say I want to make my birthday wish

1:I wish I get the tickets to the Super Bowl(like a lottery).

2:I wish I would get the tickets to the Super Bowl,

All of the grammar websites I have referred to so far regarding tense usage with wish tell me it is used with either a past tense or a past perfect for regrets or past wishes.

I wish I had a car.
I wish I had studied hard for my tests.

and would for the future wishes like expression #2. Does that make the expression #1 incorrect?

Can anyone explain to me which tense to use in my birthday wish-related context?

1 Answer 1


In US use today, the verb wish is far more often used to express a ‘counterfactual’—that is, you wish you would get something you think it unlikely or impossible you will or can get:

I wish someone would give me a Mercedes.
I wish I had a million dollars.
I wish I were an Oscar Meyer wiener.
I wish he was dead.

This is what your websites call ‘past tense’ or ‘past perfect’, but it’s not. It’s use of past forms to express unreal or impossible events; one technical term is irrealis. (The old-fashioned technical term is subjunctive.)

The once-ordinary indicative use is now found largely in old, more or less ritualized phrases:

We wish you a Merry Christmas.
Wish upon a star. (Wish I may, wish I might, First star I see tonight …)
Wishing well
You may call me if you wish.
Best wishes, your friend, Thor.

In describing your desire for gifts you have a realistic chance of receiving, we say hope now, with the complement in the indicative:

I hope I’m going to get a new laptop from my parents.
I hope I get Super Bowl tickets.
I hope somebody gets me a subscription to the OED.
I hope I clean up.

In announcing your desire to prospective donors we say would like (I want is a little bit too forthright).

I’d like Super Bowl tickets.
I sure would like a Kindle for my birthday.
I’d really really like a date with Emma Watson. Failing that, with the redhead in my Psych class.

  • Isn't the "want to do something" meaning still perceived in "You may call Emma Watson, if you wish."?
    – apaderno
    Commented May 26, 2013 at 9:43
  • @kiamlaluno Yes, but again that's a stock phrase, a phatic ornament. Commented May 26, 2013 at 12:25
  • Still, it is better to point that out, before the OP thinks wish (as verb) is used only for something that is unlikely/impossible to happen/get.
    – apaderno
    Commented May 26, 2013 at 12:49
  • @kiamlaluno Good point; I will add it. Commented May 26, 2013 at 13:16

You must log in to answer this question.

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