Hope Vs. Wish

Learn how to use hope and wish, which are very similar but not the same. They are both similar to want or desire but express the lack of certainty of outcome.

As with all verbs that help us express emotion, the rules of when to use hope or wish may not always be clear or strict. This division can be blurry and even culturally determined.

Read on if you want to master these verbs in standard English.

First, memorize the easy general rule for each:

Hope is used more often but has fewer uses than wish.

Use hope to talk about desires or dreams that are possible/considered possible to fulfill. That means the speaker should believe the outcome is possible, even if it is not.

Wish is used less often but has more uses than hope.

Use wish to express the following:

holiday salutations

desires which are just ideals (theoretical ideals)

desires which are impossible (or more impossible than possible) to fulfill

desires where the degree of possibility is completely unknown to you

desires which would require magic to fulfill

Wish and hope are also nouns.

You can make a wish/the wish/wishes, but you cannot make a hope/the hope/hopes.

You can have them all (except one): hope/a hope/the hope/hopes/a wish/the wish/wishes. Exception: You cannot have wish. Why not? Wish is always a countable noun. Hope is both a countable and uncountable noun.

Birthdays are for wishes and wishing.

Co-worker: I made this cake because I wanted to wish you a happy birthday. I hope you like chocolate!

You: Yes, thank you. When I saw it, I hoped it was chocolate.

Co-worker: Great! Close your eyes and make a wish. Then blow out your candles.

You close your eyes and wish for a raise at work. Then you blow out the candles and open your eyes.

Co-worker: What did you wish for?

You: Wishes are supposed to be secrets! I hope you understand. I don't wish to be rude about it.

Co-worker: Of course, I was just kidding. I hope your wish comes true.


Sometimes both wish play different roles in the same conversation.

Hope Vs. Wish

You may understand the difference between hope and wish from the context of these examples:

They hope to take this flight, but the plane is already full. I wish there were seats for them.

I wish I knew his size, but I don't. I will buy the large sweater for him and hope it's big enough.

The genie asked her to make two wishes, but she was hoping for three.

How do you maintain your sense of hope after so much tragedy? I wish I had your strength.


Salutations: Use wish in holiday greetings

We wish you a merry Christmas and a happy new year!

Also: We hope [that] you [will] have a merry Christmas and a happy new year!

Wish is preferred over hope for holiday salutations.

Impossible Dreams: Use wish to express a desire for the impossible or if you would need some "magic" to make it happen.

I wish I could be a child again.

I wish I were able to help. I wish I knew what to do. I hope you have some ideas.

Wish in the present tense is combined with the past tense of other verbs similar to and often in place of if.

"Wish you were here!" is often written on postcards from exotic places.


Hope for what is possible--or what you believe is possible.

My biggest hope is that the pandemic will be over soon.

This is another way of saying "I really hope the pandemic will end soon" but uses hope as a noun.

These excellent athletes have hopes and dreams of competing in the Olympics.

*hopes and dreams= aspirations that are theoretically possible to fulfill

Wish or Hope

You can use both wish and hope to express desired outcomes if there is some degree of probability, but the structure differs a little.

We had our differences with him, but we wish him well.

We had our differences with him, but we don't wish him ill.

We hope [that] all goes well for him.

We don't hope [that] he will fail.

*differences: disagreements or differences of opinion

Good luck at your audition!

I hope you make it!

I hope you get it!

I wish you the best/ I want the best for you.

I wish you the best result for your audition/I want the best result for your audition.

*make it=reach a goal or, arrive at a point that is difficult to reach

*get it=achieve a goal, obtain a desired object, or fully understand something

Songs can help us commit aspects of language to memory, including how to use wish and hope. Countless songs use wish or hope or both in their lyrics.

Sing your way to mastering wish and hope.

Here are a lines of 10 different famous songs that you can search for if you want to read or hear all the lyrics. Maybe you already recognize some of them?

  1. When you wish upon a star, [it] makes no difference who you are...

  2. I hope you dance..

  3. We wish you a merry Christmas...

  4. Close your eyes, make a wish, and blow out the candle light...

  5. Just wishing and hoping and praying...

  6. Make my wish come true--all I want for Christmas is you...

  7. And when I'm gone, I hope...

  8. I wish it would rain down, down on me

  9. He had high hopes; he had high hopes, high apple-pie-in-the-sky hopes...

  10. I wish you love... and I will always love you...

We hope you enjoyed this lesson and wish you a good week.

Thanks for reading and sharing!

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