8 Vote

In my English class today for intermediate students

We used the phrases

“I wish (that) I had won the lottery”

And

“If ony I had won the lottery”

This caused some confusion initially about when to use which phrase.

Also about why I said it meant “I did not win the lottery” and not “I have not won the lottery”

In an attempt to help the students I suggested that they put the first phrase into Spanish.

This resulted in a lengthy discussion and finally they more or less agreed and came up with:

Desearía haber ganado etc ………..

Now I bécame confused ……. I thought of this as "I would wish to have won........

In the English we use the past perfect "had won" to indicate an "unreal" situation in the present time.

But I cannot "see" that in the Spanish sentence they suggested.

My questions are these: Is the sentence my students suggested correct and is it the closest one can get to the English?

7 Answers

3 Vote

I'm in deep water here, but I probably would have said something like, Ojalá que hubiera ganado la lotería for the I wish... phrase. I'll leave If only... alone.

By the way, I've substitute taught in Spanish For Spanish Speakers classes in U.S. high schools. I've found that native Spanish speaking teenagers in the U.S. are as ignorant of their own language as native English speaking teenagers are of English. Nobody in one class could conjugate almorzar, because they didn't know what almuerzo was. I had to tell them that lonche wasn't a Spanish word.

Edit: Oh, back to the original question: I would have read their sentence as I would like to have won.... That's actually pretty close in English.

  • perfect kevin, ojalá....would have been my choice, actually this desearĂ­a bit...we dont use it here - 00494d19 Jul 15, 2010 flag
2 Vote

I don't know, my Mexican friends all say that DesearĂ­a is I wish, and they rarely use deseo for it.

  • My Mexican friends rarely use the word desear at all. They use querer for what they want, and esperar for what they hope/wish/wait for. I think our high school Spanish teachers lied to us. - KevinB Jul 14, 2010 flag
  • Wait - they didn't lie to us. They taught us desear because it's easier to conjugate than querer. After all these years I've figured it out. - KevinB Jul 15, 2010 flag
  • Wait again - DesearĂ­a is one of those subjunctive thingamabobs: I would like, I would desire, I (would) wish (something not certain). That works. - KevinB Jul 15, 2010 flag
  • desearĂ­a is not subjunctive it is conditional - Izanoni1 Jul 15, 2010 flag
1 Vote

Oh my, thank you KevinB, I agree, it is just weird to see the 'reverse' translation. I am astounded and I was thinking that it either shows a really deep difference in the way we approach the language, or ... who knows... (and Ian so difficult to teach I think!)

1 Vote

Wouldn't I wish I had won be deseo que hubiera ganado? The wishing is being done in the present, but the action is in the past, hence imperfect subjunctive. Wordreference says "if only" is "si tan sĂłlo", so I assume "If only I had won" would be "Si tan sĂłlo que hubiera ganado."

1 Vote

Both "I wish that" and "If only" can be expressed equally well by Ojalá. That is to say that Ojalá can be used to express a regret that something didn't happen.

¡Ojalá (que) hubiese ganado la lotería [past perfect subjunctive] - I wish that I had won the lottery/If only I had won the lottery.

¡Ojalá (que) habría ganado la lotería [conditional perfect] - I wish that I would have won the lottery; If only I would have won the lottery.

I don't see much distinction between "if only" and "I wish" unless there is some further context that I am missing. Both seem to indicate regret on the part of the speaker. Perhaps if you were to explain the distinction that you are trying to make.

For the expression "if only" besides "si tan sĂłlo," as Socceryo already mentioned, I have also seen "si por lo menos," so I suppose you might say:

Si por lo menos hubiese ganado la loterĂ­a - If only I had won the lottery

1 Vote

This resulted in a lengthy discussion and finally they more or less agreed and came up with:

DesearĂ­a haber ganado etc

This might actually approximate the meaning somewhat.

DesearĂ­a, me gustarĂ­a and quisiera can all be used to express the idea of "I should like..." Therefore, the statement that your students came up with might be translated as follows:

DesearĂ­a haber ganado la loterĂ­a - I should like to have won the lottery

As you can see, this is very similar in meaning, although not an exact translation, to the sentiment expressed in your initial sentence.

1 Vote

In the English we use the past perfect "had won" to indicate an "unreal" situation in the present time.

"DesearĂ­a haber ganado": DesearĂ­a by itself expresses the desire and "haber" is the auxiliary for of this subjunctive form, just like "had" is the auxiliary for "won" in "I wish I had won".

Desearía haber ganado la lotería: I wish I had won the lottery. Si tan sólo hubiera ganado la lotería: If only I had won the lottery. Ojalá ganara la lotería: I wish I win the lottery.

They all express a desire, an "unreal" future, they all mean the same thing, maybe small variants or different words, but same idea.

Does this help?

  • madder is a native, please listen to her;) - 00494d19 Jul 15, 2010 flag
  • I agree 100 percent, I think the problem is that some people can't get past the idea that the conditional tense of desearĂ­a should indicate something more than "I wish" because that associate that with "deseo". To me, my friends say "desearĂ­a" is mostly - jeezzle Jul 15, 2010 flag
  • used for "I wish" and not "desea" so the conditional tense is irrelevant. I just know it means "I wish" regardless of what the textbooks say. And you have indicated that here as well. ;) - jeezzle Jul 15, 2010 flag
  • "I wish I win the lottery" - would never be said in English. - ian-hill Jul 19, 2010 flag
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