Learn the difference between HOPE and WISH (Improve vocabulary)

The difference between HOPE and WISH

Do you know the difference between HOPE and WISH? These two words can be easy to confuse for non-native speakers, but don’t worry, I’m here to help you! My post will explain with lots of natural examples.

Clear definitions are good.

Natural examples that you can really use are great!

HOPE

  • hope verb – to want something to happen and think that it is possible

“We are hoping for good weather on Sunday.”

WISH

  • wish verb – to want something to happen or to be true even though it is unlikely or impossible

“I wish I was taller.”

*The definitions and examples used in this post are from www.oxfordlearnersdictionaries.com

HOPE

We hope for something. We hope for a noun.

The example at the top of our post is:

“We are hoping for good weather on Sunday.”

The verb hope means – to want something to happen and think that it is possible – so we can understand this sentence as:
It’s possible to have good weather on Sunday and that is what we want

Everyone in my class hopes for an easy final exam.

More examples

“All we can do now is wait and hope.”

A positive outcome or result is possible and it’s what we want.

A: “Will it rain this weekend?
B: “I hope not.”

It is possible NOT to rain this weekend and I would like that. I would like it if it DIDN’T rain.
I hope it doesn’t rain tonight.
The difference between HOPE and WISH

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A: “Will you be back before dark?”
B: “I hope so, yes.”

Returning before it gets dark is possible and I would like to do that.

We can also say:

  • I hope to be back before dark
  • I hope I can get home before dark.

“The exam went better than I hoped.”

I wanted to do well on my exam, I did even better than I wanted.

A: “Do you think it will rain?”
B: “I hope not, but I brought my folding umbrella just in case.

I don’t want it to rain but I will bring my folding umbrella because rain is possible.

More confusing English – Affect and Effect

WISH

We can wish (that)…

The example at the top of our post is:

“I wish I was taller.” (I wish that I was taller.)

The verb wish means to want something to happen or to be true even though it is unlikely or impossible – in this sentence we can imagine the person talking is an adult so they have stopped growing.
It’s not possible to become taller.

“I wish I hadn’t eaten so much.”

In this example wish + not done something shows regret. We regret a past action. It’s impossible to go back in time and not do an action.
I wish I didn’t eat all that pizza… 
The difference between HOPE and WISH

Ohhh… Why did I eat so much…

A: “Where is Jim now?’”
B: “I only wish I knew!”

I want to know where Jim is but I don’t.

“I wish you wouldn’t leave your clothes all over the floor.”

In this example we can imagine a mother talking to her son. It’s unlikely that he will change his habit of being messy, even though she wants him to.

I wish you wouldn’t leave your clothes all over the floor

I wish (that) you’d clean up your room!
you’d = you would

Below is a (BAD) video I made from this original post years ago It’s good for a minute of English listening.

Idioms with WISH

You wish! (informal) used to say that something is impossible or very unlikely, although you wish it were possible LINK

Mark: I’m gonna marry a rich and beautiful actress one day.
Spencer: YEAH! You wish!

Spencer thinks Mark’s plan is impossible or very unlikely.

Other subjects are also possible.

Alex: Mark says he’s gonna marry a rich and beautiful actress one day.
Spencer: He wishes!

Riley: The boss is going to promote someone to division manager. Maybe you’ll get the job.
Jill: I wish!

Jill doesn’t think that she has a chance to get promoted.

Idioms with HOPE

cross my heart (and hope to die) (informal) used to emphasize that you are telling the truth or will do what you promise LINK
The feeling is that I will die if I’m not telling the truth.

“I didn’t eat your cookie. Cross my heart and hope to die.”

When I was young, we used to say “Cross my heart and hope to die, stick a needle in my eye.” It sounds terrible now that I’m older!

Songs with WISH

This is a popular Disney song that you may have heard before. It’s from Pinocchio.

When you wish upon a star

This is a fun rap song from 1995 that I like. It’s called…

I wish

Do you like these songs? Do you HOPE or WISH for anything? Please tell me in the comments below. Do you want MORE English? Get it HERE by joining the WorldEnglishBlog Newsletter family.

Check out these other great blog posts!

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