“I wish I were thin!”

Last night Sr. Wantabee was teaching ESL to level 3 beginners. The class is composition. The unit was on change.

The first week we wrote a letter to the editor of a newspaper about a change we would like to see take place. The students were quite clever comparing the traffic in their former traffic to traffic here. The streets of America are almost as nice as the streets of Saigon! Why not park in the malls and then have rapid transit to the city center to unclog parking? Nice essays.

Last week we wrote about changes in housing, the differences between the homes in our former country and our homes now. Things were “too” tiny or not “spacious enough” as we compared.

Last night, though, we tackled the past tense used in a present “wish” statement. Sr. Wantabee wondered what goes on in American thinking that a wish automatically throws the conversation into the past tense. A wish in the present necessitates an action in the past which makes the present wish conceivable. She could be thin now if she had dieted properly then. Wishful thinking in the present draws thoughts from the past which make a dream for the future. I cannot say “I wish I will be thin.” I must say, “I wish I were thin.” “Hoping” can be followed by the future tense but “wishing” is followed by the past. It says something about how we see reality.

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