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I Wish I Didn’t Have to Work Next Weekend – Hypothetical Situations with Past Simple

I read an interesting question on a teacher’s forum on LinkedIn. A teacher asked the following:  

The sentence “I’d rather I didn’t have to work next weekend, but I do.” How to explain why it is ‘I didn’t’ and not ‘I do’. Conditional?

Several teachers chipped in, and the conclusion was that you need to use the past for situations that are unreal, or hypothetical.

What is meant by unreal this is a situation that could happen, but it won’t.

In the example above, the unreal situation is that someone will not have to work. It’s unreal because they do have to work. Tough luck!

Unreal = Past Simple

For unreal situations, you must use past simple in English. Why this is so, I don’t think anyone will be able to explain. It’s just a rule.

Here is another example:

I’d rather we played Frisbee on the beach, but the park is okay too.

So in the end the person who says this will be playing in the park. They aren’t on the beach, but it would have been possible.

ballFaster Panda

Here’s one more example:

I’d rather you didn’t ask me that same question over and over.

Unfortunately, this person does ask the question again and again, but it would be possible not to do it.

Last example of this:

We’d rather you prepared us sandwiches without mayonnaise.

Sandwiches without mayonnaise are a possible option.

I Wish + Past Simple

The unreal situations don’t necessarily have to be with “rather.” They can also occur after “I wish.”

Here are some examples of that:

I wish I didn’t have to work next weekend. Unfortunately, I do.

Francis wishes his weekend lasted longer.

Megan wishes she could sleep uninterruptedly.

We wish the ice cream parlour were* open all night.

*Note. For unreal situations you shouldn’t use “was.” Use only “were,” also for the singular (where there is only one thing or person).

Conditionals with Past Simple

In conditionals there can be a hypothetical situation as well, and it’s no wonder that the past tense is used for those too.

Here are some examples of such an unreal conditional:

If Barry asked the right questions, he would discover the truth.

If Jennifer learned programming, she could build that website herself.

As you can see, the condition is in the past simple. (The condition is the first part of these sentences, starting with “if.”) We’ll talk more about conditionals in another article.

Quiz

Now here’s an exercise for you to practise:

Finish the sentences according to the information that is given.

The first one has been done for you.

1 The movie has too many breaks. This is annoying.

I wish …

I wish the movie didn’t have so many breaks.

2 My hair is too curly.

I’d rather …

3 The parents would like their kids to go to sleep.

They’d rather …

4 I always get terrible jetlag when I fly.

I wish …

5 My shoes always fill up with sand on the beach.

I wish …

6 You wanted to go to the Sacré Coeur, but instead we are going to the Louvre.

You’d rather …

7 Bungee jumping looks fun. It’s a pity it scares the wits out of me (= scares me very much).

I wish …

8 We always fight when we are in the car, even with GPS.

I wish …

9 You always drink from my water bottle when we hike. Get your own bottle.

I’d rather …

Your answers could differ from mine. You can compare them at the bottom of the page.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Answers: 

1 I wish the movie didn’t have so many breaks.

2 I’d rather my hair were less curly.

3 They’d rather their kids went to sleep.

4 I wish I didn’t get such terrible jetlag when I fly.

5 I wish my shoes didn’t fill up with sand on the beach.

6 You’d rather we went to the Sacré Coeur.

7 I wish bungee jumping didn’t scare the wits out of me.

8 I wish we didn’t fight when we are in the car.

9 I’d rather you brought your own water bottle when we hike.

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