1. Could you please explain why a past perfect tense is used for a single past action in the following sentence noted on page 1,752 of the Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary (7th edition) for the word “wish” (Verb – sense 1): “I wish I hadn’t eaten so much.”
Also, are the following sentences correct?
A. I wish I haven’t eaten so much.
B. I wish you will be a millionaire one day. (Assuming high possibility of becoming a millionaire)
2. Do we say “Dr. Mahathir is/was the fourth PM of Malaysia?
1. When you are using “wish” as a main verb with a “that-clause”, we use past tenses with a present or future meaning. “Past perfect tenses are used for wishes about the past.” (M. Swan, Practical English Usage, 2005)
That is why the OALD uses “I wish I hadn’t eaten so much.”, NOT “I wish I haven’t eaten so much.”
The clause following “wish” is said to be a “that-clause”, because “that” is used before it as a connector, but it may also be dropped. Thus the sentence may be written: “I wish (that) I hadn’t eaten so much.”
B. To wish, in sense 1. of the verb “wish” in OALD, means “to want something to happen or to be true even though it is unlikely or impossible.” That is why the past or past perfect tenses are used in the OALD examples, like “I wish I were/was taller” and “I only wish I knew”.
So instead of using the verb “wish” in a sentence that assumes a high possibility of what you say coming true, why not use another verb like “I know”, “I think” or “I hope”:
“I know/think/hope you will be a millionaire one day.” Then you can use “will” instead of “would”.
2. We say “Dr. Mahathir was the fourth PM of Malaysia.” Although Dr Mahathir is still alive, he is no longer the prime minister of Malaysia. We can see how Mrs Thatcher, for example is described on some reputable websites:
The Past Perfect Tense expresses an event that occurred before another action in the past. It can also show that something happened before a specific time in the past. This tense is generally used in reported speech, third conditional sentences, or to show dissatisfaction with the past.
The following are the situation where past perfect tense is used
1) We use the Past Perfect tense in situation where action is ccompleted before something in the past
- I had never seen such a beautiful town before I came here.
- Steve knew Singapore so well because he had visited the city several times.
- Aliceunderstood the movie because she had read the book.
- I had never been to an opera before last night.
- He had finished his homework before he went playing football.
.2) We use the Past Perfect tense with third conditional sentences.
- If we had gone by taxi instead of bus, we wouldn’t have been late.
- If John had studied harder, he would have passed the exam.
3) We use the Past Perfect with sentences in reported speech.
- Mary said she had already seen this film.
- Alice asked if I had read Harry Potter.
4) Past Perfect is often used to show our dissatisfaction with the past. Such sentences usually start with “I wish …” or “If only …”.
- I wish I had saved more money when I’m young. I’m broke now.
- If only I had taken more food. I’m hungry now.