HomeQ&AI wish I had won the lottery ...........

I wish I had won the lottery ...........


In my English class today for intermediate students

We used the phrases

I wish (that) I had won the lottery”


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?

updated JUL 19, 2010
edited by ian-hill
posted by ian-hill

7 Answers


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.

updated JUL 15, 2010
edited by KevinB
posted by KevinB
perfect kevin, ojalá....would have been my choice, actually this desearía bit...we dont use it here - 00494d19, JUL 15, 2010

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

updated JUL 21, 2010
posted by jeezzle
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
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
Wait again - Desearía is one of those subjunctive thingamabobs: I would like, I would desire, I (would) wish (something not certain). That works. - KevinB, JUL 15, 2010
desearía is not subjunctive it is conditional - Izanoni1, JUL 15, 2010

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

"Desearía haber ganado": Desearía 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?

updated JUL 19, 2010
posted by MadderSky
madder is a native, please listen to her;) - 00494d19, JUL 15, 2010
I agree 100 percent, I think the problem is that some people can't get past the idea that the conditional tense of desearía should indicate something more than "I wish" because that associate that with "deseo". To me, my friends say "desearía" is mostly - jeezzle, JUL 15, 2010
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
"I wish I win the lottery" - would never be said in English. - ian-hill, JUL 19, 2010

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

Desearía haber ganado etc

This might actually approximate the meaning somewhat.

Desearía, me gustaría 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:

Desearía haber ganado la lotería - 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.

updated JUL 15, 2010
posted by Izanoni1

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 sólo," 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 lotería - If only I had won the lottery

updated JUL 15, 2010
edited by Izanoni1
posted by Izanoni1

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!)

updated JUL 14, 2010
posted by margaretbl

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 sólo", so I assume "If only I had won" would be "Si tan sólo que hubiera ganado."

updated JUL 14, 2010
edited by socceryo3
posted by socceryo3
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