Unit 68 I wish, If only, ..as if..

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Main points

* You use `I wish’ and `If only’ to talk about wishes and regrets.

* You use `..as if..’ and `..as though..’ to show that information in a manner clause is not or might not be true.

1 You can express what you want to happen now by using `I wish’ or `If only’ followed by a past simple verb.
I wish he wasn’t here.
If only she had a car.

Note that in formal English, you sometimes use `were’ instead of `was’ in sentences like these.
I often wish that I were really wealthy.

When you want to express regret about past events, you use the past perfect.
I wish I hadn’t married him.

When you want to say that you wish that someone was able to do something, you use `could’.
If only they could come with us!

When you want to say that you wish that someone was willing to do something, you use `would’.
If only they would realise how stupid they’ve been.

2 When you want to indicate that the information in a manner clause might not be true, or is definitely not true, you use `as if’ or `as though’.
She reacted as if she didn’t know about the race.
She acts as though she owns the place.

After `as if’ or `as though’, you often use a past tense even when you are talking about the present, to emphasize that the information in the manner clause is not true. In formal English, you use `were’ instead of `was’.
Presidents can’t dispose of companies as if people didn’t exist.
She treats him as though he was her own son.
He looked at me as though I were mad.

3 You can also use `as if’ or `as though’ to say how someone or something feels, looks, or sounds.
She felt as if she had a fever.
He looked as if he hadn’t slept very much.
Mary sounded as though she had just run all the way.

You can also use `it looks’ and `it sounds’ with `as if’ and `as though’.
It looks to me as if he wrote down some notes.
It sounds to me as though he’s just being awkward.

4 When the subject of the manner clause and the main clause are the same, you can often use a participle in the manner clause and omit the subject and the verb `be’.
He ran off to the house as if escaping.
He shook his head as though dazzled by his own vision.

You can also use `as if’ or `as though’ with a `to’-infinitive clause.
As if to remind him, the church clock struck eleven.

5 In informal speech, people often use `like’ instead of `as if’ or `as’ to say how a person feels, looks, or sounds. Some speakers of English think that this use of `like’ is incorrect.
He felt like he’d won the pools.
You look like you’ve seen a ghost.
You talk just like my father does.

You can also use `like’ in prepositional phrases to say how someone does something.
He was sleeping like a baby.
I behaved like an idiot , and I’m sorry.