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    #1

    wish + present subjunctive

    It's been bothering me for a long time.

    I can say, "I wish you a merry Christmas." It's a wish that clearly refers to the future. As far as I know, I cannot say, "I wish that you have a merry Christmas," to mean the same thing. I should say, "I hope that you have a merry Christmas."

    What is it that makes the red sentence incorrect (if I'm right that it's incorrect)? I wouldn't have any problem with that if the blue sentence were incorrect too. But it's correct, which makes me wonder. Apparently, the word "wish" can convey the meaning of desiring something that might happen in the future.

    I thought it could be that the wish + present subjunctive was used in the past but disappeared. I searched the corpora that I know of getting absolutely no results. Google searches gave some results, but I found them unsatisfactory. From that I infer that this construction was never used or at least not used in the period of time covered by the corpora (which I don't know).

    Those results surprised me for one more reason. I expected I would find some examples of "wish" used to mean "demand" during my searching. But I found nothing. Seemingly, as someone said here some time ago, "wish" was always used exclusively with the past subjunctive.

    Could someone give any historical background to this fact? How did the difference between "wish" and "hope" arise and the difference between the red and the blue sentence?

  1. milan2003_07's Avatar
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    #2

    Re: wish + present subjunctive

    First of all let's wait till someone says "I wish that you have ..." is incorrect. I doubt a little bit, though I would avoid this construction. I'd say "I wish you [something]"

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    #3

    Re: wish + present subjunctive

    Quote Originally Posted by milan2003_07 View Post
    First of all let's wait till someone says "I wish that you have ..." is incorrect. I doubt a little bit, though I would avoid this construction. I'd say "I wish you [something]"
    I was taught it was incorrect, I've never heard or seen it and, as I said, the construction is not present in literature (unless I can't search the corpora). But I'm waiting for the confirmation too.

    PS: I did see the construction while searching the web for it. I don't remember seeing it before.
    Last edited by birdeen's call; 10-Jan-2011 at 22:15.

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    #4

    Re: wish + present subjunctive

    Quote Originally Posted by birdeen's call View Post
    It's been bothering me for a long time.

    I can say, "I wish you a merry Christmas." It's a wish that clearly refers to the future. As far as I know, I cannot say, "I wish that you have a merry Christmas," to mean the same thing. I should say, "I hope that you have a merry Christmas."

    What is it that makes the red sentence incorrect (if I'm right that it's incorrect)? I wouldn't have any problem with that if the blue sentence were incorrect too. But it's correct, which makes me wonder. Apparently, the word "wish" can convey the meaning of desiring something that might happen in the future.

    I thought it could be that the wish + present subjunctive was used in the past but disappeared. I searched the corpora that I know of getting absolutely no results. Google searches gave some results, but I found them unsatisfactory. From that I infer that this construction was never used or at least not used in the period of time covered by the corpora (which I don't know).

    Those results surprised me for one more reason. I expected I would find some examples of "wish" used to mean "demand" during my searching. But I found nothing. Seemingly, as someone said here some time ago, "wish" was always used exclusively with the past subjunctive.

    Could someone give any historical background to this fact? How did the difference between "wish" and "hope" arise and the difference between the red and the blue sentence?

    ***** NOT A TEACHER *****


    Birdeen's call,


    Do I assume correctly that you have already read Mr. Michael

    Swan's explanation in his Practical English Usage?

    If your answer is NO, then let me quickly give you some highlights:

    (1) We use "wish" with two objects in fixed expressions of good

    wishes.

    (a) I wish you [first object] a Merry Christmas [ second].

    (2) If you use "wish" with a -that clause, the verb means regret:

    I wish that I was/were better looking. [In my case, I wish that I

    were younger!!!]

    (3) If you wish for things that seem possible in the future, one

    must use "hope":

    I hope (that) you feel better tomorrow.

    He has many more things to say about the proper use of "wish." I am

    afraid of violating copyright laws, so I had better stop.

    ***** NOT A TEACHER *****

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    #5

    Re: wish + present subjunctive

    Quote Originally Posted by TheParser View Post
    I am afraid of violating copyright laws, so I had better stop.
    Believe me, you aren't violating any rules. What's been published can be quoted. Go on. It's very interesting to know about "wish".

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    #6

    Re: wish + present subjunctive

    Thank you, Parser. That confirms what I was taught. (I didn't read Mr. Swan's explanation; I don't have a copy of his book.)

    I was wondering about the reason of this. How did "wish" come to mean what it means in "I wish you a merry Christmas," if it's used to talk about regret otherwise?

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    #7

    Re: wish + present subjunctive

    Quote Originally Posted by birdeen's call View Post
    Thank you, Parser. That confirms what I was taught. (I didn't read Mr. Swan's explanation; I don't have a copy of his book.)

    I was wondering about the reason of this. How did "wish" come to mean what it means in "I wish you a merry Christmas," if it's used to talk about regret otherwise?
    I wish that I knew the answer. I hope that a teacher answers your

    question soon.

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    #8

    Re: wish + present subjunctive

    I can wish you a merry Christmas, but not hope you a merry Christmas.
    I can hope, but not wish, that you have a merry Christmas.
    I can wish you all the best, but not hope you all the best.
    I can hope, but not wish, that all goes well for you.

    N.B. In all that follows, I am surmising, not giving an expert's view.

    BC: How did the difference between "wish" and "hope" arise?
    5: I think you are on the wrong track there. It's not that any difference 'arose'; it's rather that the meanings of two completely different words happened to nearly overlap at times. We should, perhaps be puzzled more by the similarities than the differences.

    I think that wish is (very) roughly equivalent to want. The major difference between the two (apart from the constructions in which they can be used) is that wish normally has the idea of a desire for something unattainable, want of a desire for something attainable.
    Hope is roughly equivalent to a combination of desire and expectation.

    People hoping/wanting/wishing to obtain a green card are advised to read this booklet.
    I feel, and it's only a feeling, that the hopers are more optimistic than the wanters, who are, in turn, more optimistic than the wishers, but there may be little practical difference here.

    I hope he will stop smoking. / I want him to stop smoking. / I wish he would stop smoking.

    Once again, the hope is more optimistic than the want. The wish is so lacking in optimism, that what is desired is expressed in a negatively hypothetical form.

    We can talk about past hopes, wants and wishes:

    I hoped he would stop smoking. / I wanted him to stop smoking. / I wished he would stop smoking.

    We can also (just about) talk about present hopes, wants and wishes for the actualisation of past situations:

    I hope he stopped smoking. / (?) I want him to have stopped smoking. / I wish he had stopped smoking.

    The hope and want are positive enough for there to be a possibility that the situation did actualise. The pessimistic wish, coupled with a tense denoting counterfactuality, denies that possibility.

    So far so good - though I may not have expressed it very clearly.

    If I am right, then I can hope that you have, and want you to have, a merry Christmas. For me to wish that you (will) have a merry Christmas is not a likely utterance, because it suggests that I (the wisher) think that you (the wishee) may well not have a merry Christmas. In such a situation, I would be more likely to express an optimistic hope or want than a clearly negative wish.

    Thus far, I see a consistency in the underlying meanings of the words.

    I wish you a merry Christmas does not appear to fit into the pattern; (the unacceptability of I hope/want you a merry Christmas can be put down to the fact that these verbs do not function in this pattern).

    We can (unrealistically perhaps) wish for a prosperous and healthy old age, or for peace and love in the world in the coming decades. Now, in January, I can wish for a merry Christmas for the whole world in December.

    It just happens to have happened (!) that when we wish someone a merry Christmas, we do it so close to the time of Christmas that any thought of the non-actualisation of the having a merry Christmas is lost.

    Well, that's a first attempt. Sorry I couldn't give any historical background.
    I look forward to reading the thoughts of others.

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    #9

    Re: wish + present subjunctive

    It took me so long to compose my last post, that I missed posts #2 to #7. So just a quick response

    Milan: First of all let's wait till someone says "I wish that you have ..." is incorrect.
    5: I haven't researched this, but I will say now that "I wish that you have ..." is normally unacceptable. The optimistc/pessimistic line that I proposed in my last post goes some way to explain why. Of course, somebody will now send in dozens of citations to prove I am wrong.

    Parser: I am afraid of violating copyright laws, so I had better stop.
    5: As milan said, and I have said to you before, you are not doing anything wrong. So long as you credit your source, do not quote unreasonably large sections (much larger than you are considering), and make no profit from somebody else's work, you are engaging in legitimate academic activity. (You are also giving Michael Swan some free advertising. )

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    #10

    Re: wish + present subjunctive

    Quote Originally Posted by fivejedjon View Post
    Of course, somebody will now send in dozens of citations to prove I am wrong.
    I'm afraid they may have a hard time finding them... I really wanted to do that and failed completely. But I still hope someone succeeds!

    I will give your first post some thought before I reply/ask more questions.

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