Wish and Hope: What is the Difference?

 Today a student asked:

What is the difference between hope and wish? Don’t both of them speak about things in the future?

hope wish verb English ESL hand fingers crossed

They do, but they need different grammar patterns, and the patterns tell us about how probable the speaker is about their coming true.

For example: When we say “I hope I can see you again” or “I hope we meet again,” you suggest that it may happen. It is possible. The noun clause that follows “hope” is in the present tense.

However, if you say: “I wish we could meet again” or “I wish we could be together again,” you suggest that it’s unlikely. It’s a fantasy. We follow wish with the conditional II or the Conditional III forms. (If you do not know this grammar, you can look at PELA blog articles in the archives that explain it.)

hope wish verb English ESL people couple man woman bicycle romantic

If you say: “I hope I am in a relationship like that some day” or “I hope I have a partner like that some day,” it means you are optimistic about your chances.

If you say: “I wish I had a relationship like that one” or “I wish someone loved me that much,” it means you aren’t in such a relationship now and doubt you will ever be in one like that.

hope wish verb English ESL graduate graduation person woman diploma college university

This graduate is optimistic. She says: I hope I find a good job soon. I hope I have my dream job by this time next year.

hope wish verb English ESL woman sad funny laptop working

This graduate is pessimistic. She says: I wish I had a job. I wish the economy were better. I wish I had some connections who could help me find a job.

Now you try:

(some example answers are below)

hope wish verb English ESL woman protest police riot peace peaceful

She hopes

She wishes

hope wish verb English ESL silly man air guitar work employee computer goof off

He hopes

He wishes

hope wish verb English ESL basketball man men athletes players game block

They hope

They wish


Possible answers:

  • She hopes the protest doesn’t become violent.
  • She wishes racism were a thing of the past
  • He hopes he can take a break soon.
  • He wishes he could play guitar like his heroes.
  • They hope they can block the other’s shot.
  • They wish they were even taller and more powerful.