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大家好!

I had a question that I have often asked my native-Chinese speaking friends, but I have not been satisfied with the answer. In English, I find myself often saying, "I wish..." For example:

I wish I could go to the movies tonight, but I have too much work to do.

I wish that I would have thought of that earlier.

I wish I had bought this book at the beginning of the semester.

I wish I did not have to go to work every day.

My friends have often given me the translation 希望, but I feel like this is hope. But I feel like this may not be appropriate for things that cannot come true. In all the examples above, "I hope" is not accurate. And if I said, say, "我希望每天不要上班” I feel like I am saying, "I hope I do not have to go to work every day."

How can I express this "wishful" thinking?

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4 Answers 4

up vote 3 down vote accepted

There are several options that clearly state that it cannot come true:

  • I wish I could go to the movies tonight, but I have too much work to do.

本想(本来想要)今晚去看电影,但要做的事情太多了。

倒想(倒是想要)今晚去看电影,但要做的事情太多了。

  • I wish that I would have thought of that earlier.

真希望 我之前能想到,(现在说什么都晚了。)

  • I wish I had bought this book at the beginning of the semester.

真希望 我一开学就买了这本书,(但当时钱不够啊。)

本想 我一开学就买了这本书,(但后来忘记了。)

  • I wish I did not have to go to work every day.

真希望 不用天天上班。

倒想 不用天天上班。

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Thanks for your answer! When you wrote: 我 真希望 不用天天上班。 How do you know if this means: I really hope I do not have to work every day, vs. I really wish I did not have to work every day. Is it just based on context? –  The_Anomaly Aug 3 at 23:05
    
"真", "倒" or "本" means it cannot come true. It might be called subjunctive mood (not sure the terminology). For example, "I really hope I do not have to work every day" can be used in the context: "我希望我不用每天上班,所以我辞掉了上一份工作找了份兼职,一周只需要上两天班。", vs "I really wish I did not have to work every day." - "我真希望我不用每天工作,但没有办法,我需要赚钱养家。" –  wuyefeibao Aug 4 at 3:36

As a native Chinese speaker, I think “我本想”,“我本以为”,“我本打算” are the answers to your questions. For example, your first sentence: I wish I could go to the movies tonight, but I have too much work to do. Translations could be: 我 本以为 我 今晚 能 去看电影,但 我 还有 非常多 的工作 要做。

Pay attention that it should be "本来以为", but we usually say “本以为” for short.

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Thanks for this answer! Is it correct to say that the 我本想... approach could be translated as, "I wanted to go to the movies, but I had too much work." Or 本打算, I was planning on going to the movies, but I had too much work." Is it correct that this is slightly different than wishful thinking? –  The_Anomaly Aug 3 at 22:59
    
You are right! However, don't worry about these differences. They are trivial and have the almost same meaning. –  nickluchen Sep 9 at 13:31

I know what you mean, but for me, 希望 or 想 are natural and accurate words in Chinese when you explain "I wish". What confuses you in Chinese is the intonation we use you should pay more attention. What's different between Chinese and english is Chinese verbs don't have tense. Because of the intonation, one word in Chinese can have several different meanings.

When you use positive intonation like 我**希望**明天是个好天气!(which means I hope it will be a sunny day tomorrow!) It explains the same meaning as I hope...

When you use negative intontion like 我**希望**每天不要上班. Other people can understand what you think about is unrealistic. If you want to stress your intonation, you can add 真 or 太 in your sentence.(我真希望每天不要上班or我太希望每天不要上班就好了)

My suggestion is you could pay more attention to the intonation when your friends speak. And ask him whether a word has other meanings when using up or down intonation.

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Thank you for your answer! If you will pardon my ignorance--what do you mean by positive/negative intonation? –  The_Anomaly Aug 3 at 23:04
    
@The_Anomaly In this case, I think it just means up/down voice. When you speak in a negative way, maybe you are in a bad mood. In contrary, positive intonation is always used to make a real wish in the future. I hope that's clear. –  TIna Aug 4 at 13:12

for something in the past or present, it can be translated to "要是……就好了" examples: I wish that I would have thought of that earlier. 我要是早点想到这个就好了。 I wish I did not have to go to work every day. 我要是不用每天上班就好了。

it's kind of like "if only..."

for something in the future, you just need to say “我想……” example: I wish I could go to the movies tonight, but I have too much work to do 我想今晚去看电影,但是还有好多事情没做呢

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