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I wish / if only
The expressions 'I wish' and 'If only' are used in English to express wishes and regrets about things that may happen in the future or may have happened in the past.
They should be studied in relation with the three types of conditional sentences:
Type 1: If + present simple / will
E.g. If I have enough money, I will travel to New York. (That is, I will check how much money I have and see if it possible for me to go)
Type 2: If + past simple / would + infinitive
E.g.: If I had enough money, I would travel to New York. (That is, I don't really have the money to afford the voyage, so I won't go)
Type 3: If + past perfect / would + perfect infinitive
E.g.: If I had had enough money, I would have gone to New York. (I wanted to go, but I didn't have enough money, so I couldn't)
When I wish and if only are used, they follow the structure of one of these conditionals, depending on what we want to express. If we talk about a regret about a present or future event, then we will use the structure of the second type of conditional and the expressions I wish/if only are followed by past simple :
I wish I had enough money to travel to New York.
If only I had enough money to travel to New York.
(That is, I don't have enough money, and I am sorry for it because I can't go)
If the event we regret happened (or failed to happen) in the past and is, therefore, impossible to change, then we use the third type of conditional structure. This time the expressions I wish/if only are followed by past perfect.
I wish I had had enough money to travel to New York.
If only I had had enough money to travel to New York.
(That is, I didn't have enough money to travel, so I couldn't go and now I regret it)
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