Hope vs. Wish. What’s the difference?

"Hope" vs. "Wish" in English

The difference between “Hope” and “Wish” in English

In the English language, the words “hope” and “wish” are often used to express desires or expectations, but they have distinct meanings and are used in different contexts. Understanding the nuances between these two words can significantly improve your English language skills.


  • Expresses optimism and belief in the possibility of a desired outcome, usually related to future events.
  • Example: “I hope to improve my English.”


Let’s examine these two words in more detail.


“Hope” is used when we express our desire for something to happen and have some expectation that it might occur. Here are some key points about “hope”:

  • Definition: “Hope” means to believe in the possibility that something desired will happen. It’s a feeling of optimism and faith in the future.
  • Usage: It’s often used for future events or outcomes that seem possible or achievable.
  • Examples:
    • “I hope you can come to the party.”
    • “She hopes to travel abroad next year.”
  • Grammatical note: “Hope” is typically followed by “to + infinitive” or “that + clause”.


“Wish” is used when we express a desire for something that may not be possible or doesn’t depend on us. It’s often used to express ideas about what would be nice but is unlikely or impossible. Here are the details:

  • Definition: “Wish” expresses a strong desire for something that is probably not going to happen or seems unattainable.
  • Usage: It’s often used for imaginary situations, regrets about the past, or unlikely future scenarios.
  • Examples:
    • “I wish I could speak five languages fluently.”
    • “She wishes she had more time to spend with her family.”
  • Grammatical note: “Wish” is often followed by a past tense verb to express a present desire, or past perfect for a past regret.

Understanding the difference between “hope” and “wish” can help English learners use these words more accurately and express their thoughts more precisely. Remember, we “hope” for things that might happen, and we “wish” for things that are unlikely or impossible.

Comparison Table: Hope vs. Wish

DefinitionExpresses belief in the possibility of achieving a desired outcome.Expresses a strong desire for something that may be unattainable.
ExampleI hope we have good weather for the picnic.I wish I could fly like a bird.
ProbabilityThe likelihood of realization is relatively high.The likelihood of realization may be low or impossible.
Phraseology“I hope so.”“I wish!”

Table of tense forms and examples of the use of “Hope” and “Wish”

Tense HopeWish
FUTUREhope + present simple

“I hope she finishes her project on time.”

wish + would + base verb

“I wish it would stop raining tomorrow.”

hope + will + base verb

“We hope you will join us for dinner next week.”

wish + were going to + base verb

“He wishes he were going to attend the conference next month.”

PRESENThope + present simple/continuous

“I hope she is enjoying her vacation now.”

wish + past simple

“I wish I knew how to speak French.”

PASThope + past simple

“I hope they arrived safely yesterday.”

wish + had + past participle

“I wish I had passed the test.”

wish + could have + past participle

“She wishes she could have gone with us.”

The main difference between “hope” and “wish” lies in their implications of possibility. “Hope” expresses an expectation and belief in the possibility of achieving something, whereas “wish” expresses a desire for something that may be unattainable or implausible. Both words are important for expressing emotions and desires in various life situations.

“Hope” is used when we believe there’s a chance of something happening, even if it’s not certain. It’s often associated with future events or outcomes that we think are possible. For example, “I hope to get a promotion this year” suggests that the speaker believes it’s a realistic possibility.

“Wish,” on the other hand, is often used for things we want but don’t necessarily expect to happen. It can be used for impossible situations, hypothetical scenarios, or regrets about the past. For instance, “I wish I had studied harder in school” expresses a regret about the past that can’t be changed.

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