Contributed by Joseph Smith


ONE POINT LESSON: "Wish" vs. "Want" vs. "Hope"

Wish, want, and hope are commonly confused, but have very different yet similar purposes in the English language when expressing your desires.

When you wish for something, what you are saying is that you want it, but you know that it's not possible.  For example:

"I wish it would stop raining."  You wish it would stop raining, but you know that it probably won't.

"I wish you hadn't told my sister about the surprise party."  Unfortunately, we cannot change the past, and you did tell her about it.  But I wish that you hadn't.

This is why many times, in movies or western culture, the idea of wishing has magic, genies, or supernatural powers associated with them.  Because the idea is that a wishes do not often come true.


Want is used to express a very real desire that you have in the present, or in the future.  For example:

"I want my dog to stop chewing on my couch."  This is a real and possible desire that I have for my dog. 

"Tom wants to go to a baseball game today."  Tom has a very real and possible desire to go to the game.

Want is a very real and possible desire that you have for the present or future.


When you hope for something, what you are saying is that you want something for the future, but do not have control over whether you get it or not.  For example:

"I hope that receive my package by tomorrow."  I want this, but I do not control when I will receive the package.  The post office does.

"I hope that tomorrow will be a bright and sunny day."  This is what I want, but I cannot control the weather.

"Sarah hopes to get into law school."  She would like to be a lawyer, but the college will decide if she can or cannot.


Understanding the differences between "wish", "want", and "hope" will help you to express your desires more clearly in English.