English Grammar - Advanced

Wishes And Regrets


When we make a wish or a regret about a present situation, we use a second conditional structure:

I wish I was thinner. or I wish I were thinner.

As with the second conditional, though we are talking about a future wish, we use the past simple.

We can also use the phrase "if only" to express the same idea:

If only I had more money!
If only she had a better job, she would be happier.

As you can see in the first sentence, it's not necessary to put the second half of the sentence.


When we make a regret about a past situation, we use a third conditional structure:

I wish I had studied harder at school when I was a teenager.
If only we had seen that special offer yesterday.

Reported Speech

When we report what someone has said, we make certain changes:

"I smoke five cigarettes a day," said Mike.
Mike said he smoked five cigarettes a day.

The main change in reported speech sentences is that the tenses change. Here is a summary of the tense changes that take place:

Tense Changes in Reported Speech
Direct Speech Reported Speech
Present Simple
Present Continuous
Past Continuous
Present Perfect
Past Simple
Past Perfect
Going to
Past Simple
Past Continuous
Past Perfect Continuous
Past Perfect
Past Perfect
Past Perfect
Was going to


"I am going to France when I finish university."
He said he was going to France when he finished university.

"I will tell you where I have been on holiday."
She said she would tell me where she had been on holiday.

"I was reading this book all day yesterday."
He said he had been reading that book all the previous day.

You can see in the last sentence how "this" becomes "that" and how "yesterday" becomes "the previous day" (or "day before"). Here are some other changes that take place:

Other Changes in Reported Speech
Direct Speech Reported Speech
That day
The next/following day
The previous day/the day before
The following
The _____ before


"I didn't go last week, I went 3 weeks ago."
He said he hadn't gone the week before, he had gone 3 weeks before.

"I don't want that report today, I want it here and now!!"
The boss said he didn't want the report that day, he wanted it there and then.

It is not necessary to change the tenses if what you are reporting is still true:

"Milan is bigger than Turin."
He said that Milan is bigger than Turin.

We stay with the present simple because Milan is still bigger than Turin.

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Be careful when you use say and tell as they are used differently:

Say something (to someone).
Tell someone something.

He told me he was getting married.
He said (to me) (that) he was getting married.

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