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I'm confused between two versions of a sentence I came across in a test. Which one is correct and why?

I wish you would speak louder as I can't hear what you say?

Or

I wish you spoke louder as I can't hear what you say?

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  • 2
    Is this from a native writer? There are better ways to phrase this, esp. "I can't hear what you say".
    – user3169
    Apr 24 '16 at 4:50
  • @user3169 This is a question from a test I came across. Checked the answers, its the second one. But, still can't understand why? Apr 24 '16 at 4:52
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    The question marks at the end of both sentences look weird, these sentences can't be questions.
    – None
    Apr 24 '16 at 7:09
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Would you speak louder?

Is a polite request.

I wish that you would speak louder.

Is a slightly tetchier version of the same request. It suggests that there is no reason to speak so quietly, other than to irritate you.

I wish that you spoke louder

is a hypothetical wish- as though there is some insurmountable problem that prevents him or her from speaking louder.

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  • The second doesn't necessarily mean there is something preventing the person from speaking more loudly: perhaps they are just in the habit of talking softly because they work in a library.
    – nnnnnn
    Jun 23 '16 at 8:43
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"I wish you would speak louder as I can't hear what you say?" -is correct because it means you did not speak louder but you should have.

On the other hand, "I wish you spoke louder as I can't hear what you say?" Does not make a clear sense. Somehow it is similar in meaning that, I wish and you really fulfilled my wish by speaking louder. But in the sentence according to the later clause, "I can't hear what you say" means he actually did not speak louder. So it is incorrect.

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Context free both:

I wish you would speak louder.

and

I wish you spoke louder.

are grammatically correct with a nuance:

I wish you would speak louder.

shows the irritation of the speaker to what they feel is an unpleasant situation.

To my mind adding the subordinate clause "as I can't hear what you say" does not modify this difference and both the sentences you give are correct.

Why would they be considered incorrect?
Specifying "as I can't hear what you say" definitely expresses the wish for the present situation to change. I expect some could say "would" is used to express a wish about the future, and simple past only used for the present.
Another reason I can think about for the choice of simple past is that showing irritation is impolite in certain situations but if context is not specified I can't see a reason why one sentence should be preferred over the other.

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from Cambridge Dictionary

used to express anger at someone's behaviour: I wish you would speak louder as I can't hear you. The other party complains that your voice was too low.

used with the past simple to express that you feel sorry or sad about a state or situation that exists at the moment: I wish you spoke louder as I can't hear you. You made a good speech, but the other party didn't hear it because your voice was too low.

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