How to wish someone something nice in English – wish or hope?

Learn how to use the verbs wish and hope to give good wishes and say nice things to someone in English.
We use the verbs wish and hope differently. Wish is more formal so when someone is wishing someone something it’s more likely to be written English. When we’re talking about future possibilities we generally use ‘hope’. It’s the verb we commonly use to give good wishes.
In this video you’ll see lots of examples and learn some other common ways to wish people nice things, like ‘Have a nice day‘ and ‘Have a great weekend‘.


Click here to learn how to use the verbs wait, hope, expect and look forward to
Click here to learn more useful everyday English expressions.

How to give good wishes: wish or hope?

There’s a mistake English students often make when they want to give good wishes to someone. They muddle up wish and hope. Today we’re going to fix that and we’ll also show you some other ways to say nice things to people in English.

I’m off
Oh, where are you going?
To the dentist’s. Wish me luck.

‘Wish me luck’. Notice that structure. To wish somebody something.
We might write this message for a bride and groom when they get married. Or maybe a colleague is retiring from work. We might write this in their card. They’re nice things to write.
But they’re for written English and they’re quite formal. Someone might say them in an official speech at an important occasion. But if we want to wish someone something, we usually say ‘hope’ instead. So, ‘We hope you have a great life and lots of fun together’, or ‘I hope you have a wonderful retirement’.

I’m off
Oh, where are you going?
To the dentist’s. Wish me luck.
Have you got a problem then?
Yes, I’ve got a toothache.
I hope it’s nothing serious.
Thanks.

Jay said ‘Wish me luck’ and I said ‘I hope it’s nothing serious.’ I didn’t say ‘wish’. That would sound funny.
So if we’re making a wish, we don’t say wish. We say hope. Wow, sometimes English is weird. What’s going on?
Wishes are magical things. The idea is that if we think of or imagine something enough, it will come true. But we all know magic isn’t real. When we want to talk about things that are real possibilities, we use hope instead of wish.
This means that we say wish when we’re talking about the action of wishing. But if we’re actually doing the action and giving good wishes to someone, it’s different. We don’t normally say wish when we’re talking about real possibilities.
It’s tricky so let’s look at some more situations. Imagine you’re saying goodbye to someone at an airport. What will you say to them?
These sentences are both grammatically correct, but I wish you a nice flight is very formal. We don’t normally say it. We say ‘I hope you have a nice flight’, or just ‘Have a nice flight.’ We often use the verb ‘have’ when we’re wishing people things.

  • Have a nice day.
    Have a great vacation.
    Have a nice trip.
    Have a great weekend.

OK, another situation. Your friend is sick. You call them and what do you say?
You say ‘I hope’, of course. When we’re doing the action of wishing we use hope not wish. And often we just say ‘Get well soon.’
OK. Another situation. Someone calls to wish your friend a happy birthday. But your friend is out so you take a message. What do you say to your friend when they return?
Which one? Let’s see it in action.

Thanks for calling. Yeah, I’ll tell him. OK. Bye now. Oh.
Who was that?
Kathy.
Uh oh. What did she want this time?
She called to wish you a happy birthday.
Oh that was nice of her.
And she wants you to work late tonight.
Oh.

So which sentence did I say? I said wish. I was talking about a wish, not doing the action and making the wish.
If I wanted to make the wish, I’d do it like this.

Hey Jay, happy birthday.
Oh thank you.
I hope you like them.
Oh I’m sure I will. It’s hair curlers?
Yes. Can I borrow them some time?
Errr. Sure.
Thank you!

So to make the wish, I just said ‘happy birthday.’ And did you notice what I said about the hair curlers?
We can say ‘I hope you like them’ or ‘I hope that you like them’. Both are correct. We often we skip ‘that’ when we’re speaking.
Great. So now you know how we use ‘hope’ to give good wishes, and you also know about this structure and when to use it.
But this structure is just the start. There are other structures we use with ‘hope’ and ‘wish’ so we’re making more videos about them.
Make sure you’ve subscribed to our channel and click the notification bell so you don’t miss them. And maybe your friends would like to learn about hope and wish too. Why not share this video with them? See you next Friday.
Click here to learn more useful everyday English expressions.
Click here to learn how to use the verbs wait, hope, expect and look forward to

2 thoughts on “How to wish someone something nice in English – wish or hope?

    • May 4, 2018 at 11:48 am
      Permalink

      Thank you so much Conrado!

      Reply

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