A Brief Encounter with Grammar : I Wish

I wish A3 web


Main Activities Prediction, listening, grammar (wishes) and speaking.

Suitable for  Teens and adults, Pre-Advanced (B2.2) and above.

TEACHER’S NOTES    (Click here for a pdf of theTeacher’s Notes.)


Put students into groups of three or four. Tell them that they’re going to see a short extract from a film.


Show the film from 07:18 to 10:11.

Then ask them to discuss the following questions:

  • What’s happened to the woman?
  • What’s the relationship between the two women?
  • Is she glad that the other woman is keeping her company?


Get some theories from the groups and write them up on the board. Tell them that you’ll reveal the answer later.


Now see if anyone can answer this question: Which word did she use eight times? Hopefully, someone will come up with the answer “wish”.


Ask them if they can remember any of the things she said using it.


Show them the scene again, but don’t let them write as they watch. When they’ve seen it, ask them to complete the gaps in these sentences.


Let them decide if they’d like to see it one more time to check/improve their answers. Alternatively, play it again, pausing after each sentence.


Display or hand out the answers.


Ask them to divide the sentences (except 3 and 4) into two groups with different meanings and forms. They should decide what the meanings are and describe the rule for the form.


Display the first block of the infographic (either use the one above or click here for the first block only) so they can check their two groups and then reveal the second block, Groups 1 and 2, to see if they have come up with the same.


Now display the plot summary so they can see how close their theories were in step 3.


Ask how she feels about the affair. Does she regret it or not?


Display the third block of the infographic, True or False?. Ask the class to vote on whether the sentences are true or false. Then play the video from 09:27-10:11 again. (This shows that the first one is obviously false – the other two are debatable.)


Now ask them to make a third group for “wish” that describes the structure and meaning for these last three examples. They should come up with something like wish + past perfect verb form, used to express regret about the past.


Finally, reveal the fourth block of the infographic, Over to You, and ask students to complete the stem sentences with true desires, complaints and regrets of their own.


Get students to sit in groups of three, read their sentences to each other and then explain and comment.



12 Comments on “A Brief Encounter with Grammar : I Wish”

  1. Nicola says:

    Haha, at first I thought this meant you wish you had only had a brief encounter with grammar! Revealing my own prejudices there I think 🙂 Nice lesson. Where are the giraffes you promised me? Did I miss them?

    • All.at.C says:

      Haha – it does sound that way, doesn’t it? And encounters with grammar on this blog have been brief so far.
      You didn’t miss the giraffes – they’re coming soon.

  2. ali togo says:

    i enjoy it .

  3. J.K. says:

    The graphic is lovely, but I do have one complaint, and that is that it shouldn’t be ‘I wish I wasn’t lying’ but rather ‘I wish I weren’t lying’. Although 99.9% of the time it looks just like the past, it is really the way English expresses the subjunctive mood, and while many people do say ‘I wish I was’, this is vernacular and grammatically incorrect. Usually I try not to be pedantic, but some advanced students have studied this and will point out that it is wrong to the teacher, causing embarrassment.

    • All.at.C says:

      Thanks for your comment. We realise how English expresses the subjunctive mood, and as you say, it is usually indistinguishable from the indicative mood.

      With regard to “I wish I weren’t lying” and “I wish I wasn’t lying”, both are acceptable in British and Irish English nowadays. The first one sounds more formal whereas the second one sounds like something that might be thought or spoken.

      There’s an interesting blog post by David Crystal on this topic here http://david-crystal.blogspot.com.es/2009/01/on-if-and-waswere.html

  4. Deb says:

    Excellent lesson, I’m going to try it out today! Thanks a million!

  5. annfore says:


    Just to let you know that we’ve shortlisted this blog post for this month’s TeachingEnglish blog award and I’ll be making a post about it on tomorrow’s TeachingEnglish Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/TeachingEnglish.BritishCouncil, if you’d like to check there for likes and comments.


  6. Noreen :) says:

    Oh the video has been blocked! I’ve found another version of the film on Youtube but can’t seem to find the section of the film that I need…. Can you post a description of the scene? Thanks!

    • All.at.C says:

      Hi Noreen,

      Yes, you’re absolutely right and I’m afraid I can’t find an alternative source to restore the link.
      The scene is near the beginning (07:18 to 10:11), from when she gets on the train and sits down in the carriage with her nosy, voluble acquaintance, Dolly, until the Rachmaninov music plays and she says something like “I want to remember it always – till the end of my days” just as they arrive at their stop.

      Hope that helps!

    • All.at.C says:

      It’s working again!

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