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Wish sentenses

John wishes he busy.
1 . wasn't 
2. wouldn't be
3. wouldn't have been
4. would haven't been

Which one is correct? Why?


  • John wishes he wasn't so busy. is the only choice that is grammatical and normal. It means that John is busy — busier than he likes to be .

    The only other grammatical choice John wishes that he wouldn't be so busy is not a normal sentence. It means that somebody else, not John, insists on being very busy and John regrets it.

    When wish is followed by a CLAUSE, the verb must be PAST TENSE. The clause must describe a situation which is not the case. In this example

    • John is busy
    • The situation which is not the case is that John isn't so busy
    • After wish the clause must be PAST John wasn't so busy
    • With John as the SUBJECT of the MAIN CLAUSE John wishes, we can use he as the SUBJECT of the OBJECT CLAUSE he wan't so busy

    In its usual sense, will is used for something we don't know — even if we think it's probable. But with wish we do know what's true — although we regret it.

    If John doesn't know but thinks he may not be busy, he can use the verb hope
    John hopes that he won't be so busy
    The verb form would is the PAST TENSE of will, so it's only right if the whole sentence is PAST
    John hoped that he wouldn't be so busy

    That strange sentence is grammatical only because will is used to mean 'insist'. Even then it only makes sense if he refers to somebody else. It makes no sense to say that John regrets that he (John) insists on being busy.

    I can't think of any meaning that would allow wouldn't have been or would have been after any form of wish. Not after John wishes and not even after John wished.

    The way we use wish in a PAST sentence is to use PAST PERFECT in the OBJECT CLAUSE
    John wished he hadn't been so busy.

  • MaryNovikMaryNovik
    edited July 2018

    Number 1 (and I decided that before reading David's post, ha ha)

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