As a learner of English, you’ve studied a lot and depending on your teacher you started studying I wish at Low or High Intermediate level.

You learned that:

I wish + past simple is for things you wish for now or in the future,

I wish I knew more about saving money.

(Ojalá supiera más sobre como ahorrar dinero.)


I wish + Past Perfect is for things you wished for in the past that didn’t happen.

I wish I’d (had) known more about saving Money when I was twenty.

(Ojalá hubiera sabido más sobre como ahorrar dinero cuando tenia 20 años.)

However, it seems that native speakers are breaking the rules again. On some grammar forums, the suggestion is that the trend may be coming from the United States. Oh no!!

Here is an example from Frances Bridges, writing in Forbes Magazine in 2017. The title should read “10 things I wish I’d known…”

10 Things I wish I knew when I was 20


That being said, there is so much I wish I knew when I was 20 that I know now that would have saved me time, money and often a great deal of pain.

It’s in the past so, it should be I wish I’d known…”

 If I were to write a list to myself at 20 of what I should understand as soon as possible, this is what I would write. I hope you find it helpful, and that your learn from some of my mistakes.

This is in the past so it should be “what I should have understood…”

It seems to be a lazy and sloppy way of avoiding longer phrases, which isn’t really acceptable if you are writing in a reputable publication.

This theme of “Things I wish I knew when I was (age).” has now become a fixed phrase with wrong grammar, and you can find it in LinkedIn articles and all over the Internet.

At least some authors such as Robin Sharma and Linda Green have got it right.

Who started it all? Was it perhaps an English pop star called Rod Stewart? Probably not. Songs often use words and phrases that break grammar rules so that they fit the melody or just sound better.

Here are two examples with “I wish I knew…” used wrongly in songs. If you also want to use it like this, please be aware that in a Cambridge examination it will be marked as wrong!

Rod Stewart – Ooh La La

I wish that I knew what I know now  (I wish that I’d known what I know now)
When I was younger
I wish that I knew what I know now
When I was stronger

Songwriters: Ron Lane / Ronald David Wood

Ooh La La lyrics © Warner Chappell Music, Inc

The Revivalists – Wish I Knew You

I wish I knew you when I was young   (I wish I’d known you when I was young)
We could’ve got so high
Now we’re here it’s been so long
Two strangers in the bright lights

Songwriters: Andrew Campanelli / David Shaw / Edward Williams / George Gekas / Michael Daniel Girardot / Robert Ingraham / Zachary Feinberg

Wish I Knew You lyrics © Concord Music Publishing LLC, Kobalt Music Publishing Ltd.

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