Difference between WISH and HOPE

The reason why English learners often confuse these two verbs is probably that in most languages, there is no difference between wish and hope. The main point is that these two verbs are similar; they both express desire, or in other words, they mean “to want something”.

  • I wish to pass the test.
  • I hope to pass the test.

So, you see, there is not much difference. However, if we look at the dictionary, we will find that the Oxford Learner’s Dictionaries define the verb wish as “to want something to happen or to be true even though it is unlikely or impossible”.  

  • I wish to go on holiday (but I can’t because I have to work)

On the other hand, the verb hope is defined as “to want something to happen and think that it is possible”.

  • I hope to go on holiday in August. (it’s a realistic expectation)

Now you probably realize that these two words are totally different. Wish refers to something you long for or desire and it has to do with regret, while hope refers to possibility which is likely to happen. In other words, we can say that wish has a negative connotation, while hope has a positive one.

Difference between wish and hope

How to use WISH

Wish + (object) + to-infinitive 

We can use  wish + (object) + to-infinitive to mean “want” or “would like”

  • I wish to write a book. (I’d love to write a book)
  • They wish to leave. (they want to leave)
  • I wish you to live a long and prosperous life. (that’s what I want for you)
  • Now that you’ve graduated, we wish you all to be good citizens.
Wish + past tense

We use wish + past tense to talk about our wishes in the present.

  • I wish I had a bigger salary. (but I don’t!)
  • We wish we were younger. (but we aren’t and we can’t be younger)
  • I wish I could speak Japanese. (but I obviously don’t)
  • I wish I had more free time. (but I have so much work to do)

Difference between wish and hope

Wish + would

Use the structure wish + would to talk about your wishes for the future.

  • We wish it would stop raining. (we don’t know if it will stop in the future, but we’d love it would)
  • I wish you would stop teasing me. (you are teasing me now but I’d like you to stop)
  • I wish our new neighbours would stop making so much noise. (I want our neighbours to stop making noise in the future)
  • I wish you would stop drinking. (I’ll be happy if you stop drinking)
Wish + Past Perfect

We use the structure wish + Past Perfect to talk about things we regret we did or didn’t do in the past.

  • I wish I had been a better student (but I wasn’t)
  • I wish I had learned to drive when I was younger. (I’m too old for that now)
  • We all wish we hadn’t polluted our planet. (but we did)
  • I wish I’d never found out that my wife cheated on me. (but I did)

Check out the lesson (+PDF & exercise) about wishes and regrets here.

Difference between wish and hope

How to use HOPE

Hope + to-infinitive

We can use the structure hope + to-infinitive to express hope about the future.

  • I hope to pass the test. (I’m studying now, it’s a realistic expectation)
  • We hope to see you soon/again.
  • Mary hoped to persuade her husband to buy her a new phone.
  • Brian hopes to climb all the highest mountains on all continents.
Hope + that clause

We normally use hope + that clause to express our wishes and hopes.

  • The citizens hoped that the new president will keep the peace in the country.
  • Robert hoped that he will pass by the old neighbourhood on his way.
  • John hoped that the meeting won’t last too long as he had some things to do in town.
  • We hope that the new law on the environment will prove effective in practice.

Difference between wish and hope

Hope in continuous tenses

Hope is often used in the continuous tense.

  • She was hoping to have a big family.
  • They are hoping to meet their son-in-law soon.
  • Milly was hoping the rain would stop because she wanted to work in the garden.
  • I am hoping to pass my driving test this time.
The phrases “hope so” & “hope not”

We will often hear the phrases hope so and hope not in spoken English used as short answers.

  • “Can we expect to have nice weather for our fishing trip?” “I hope so”.
  • “Have you been to the job interview? Do you think they’ll hire you?” “I sincerely hope so”.
  • “Do you think we’ll be in debt when we pay all the bills?” “I hope not.”
  • “I can see some dark clouds coming. Do you think it’s going to rain?” “I hope not.”

Difference between wish and hope

Remember to use the preposition FOR with the verb hope.

  • Monica was hoping for better pay in the new job.
  • They didn’t know what to expect, but they hoped for the best.
  • We have achieved more than we could ever hope for.
  • We are hoping for a positive outcome of our mutual efforts.

Follow the link to learn collocations with HOPE

The definitions of wish and hope in this post are taken from the Oxford Learner’s Dictionaries.

Difference between WISH and HOPE
Difference between WISH and HOPE

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