How to express regrets in English?

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  • Post last modified:06/07/2021
  • Post category:English Grammar
  • Reading time:5 mins read

Here you will learn how to express regrets in English.

Learn 3 ways which you can use to express your emotions of sadness or unhappiness about something you did or did not do in the past. Improve your English speaking skills and build up your confidence.

How to express regrets in English - Podcast Episode 128

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Harry is a native English teacher with over 10 years of experience both online and in face-to-face lessons. With his extensive experience in business, he specialises in Business English but happily teaches ESL students with any English learning needs.

Hi there, this is Harry from where I try to help you to understand English language a little bit better. English phrases, expressions and basic grammar rules.

So I hope you’re all keeping well, and today we’re talking about regrets in English. How to express regrets in English and different ways of expressing regrets in English.

How to express regrets in English

I Wish and If only English Grammar Structures

We use I WISH and IF ONLY when we’re talking about regrets.


We use WISH / IF ONLY with the Past Simple or the Past Continuous or COULD + present bare infinitive in the main clause to express regret about the present or the future. Okay?

Let me give you some examples.

I wish you were here.

So they’re not but you do wish that somebody was there to help you with a particular problem or issue.

I wish I could talk to you now.

You’d like to talk to someone but you can’t because they’re not available.

I wish you could see this place.

You really want someone to see this place but it’s not possible at the moment so this is the way you express your regret.

How to express regrets in English


We use WISH / IF ONLY with the Past Perfect in the main clause to talk about regrets in the past.

I wish I hadn’t said that.

You did, you can’t take it back but you really wish that it hadn’t happened.

If only I’d known you were coming.

I didn’t know you were coming, we could have met, but we didn’t because I didn’t know. A regret about the past action.


We can also use WOULD.

And we use WOULD when we want to get somebody to do something, or to get somebody to stop doing something.

I wish you would stop banging that drum.

Parent’s wishing the child would be a little bit more quiet.

I wish he wouldn’t shout so loud when he’s on the telephone.

If only they would stop shouting at each other.

So here are the English grammar rules concerning I WISH and IF ONLY, and we are talking about regrets that we can have about the present, future or past.

More Information

For more information on English phrasal verbs, English collocations and English idioms, check out the following links:

Collocations with PLAN

Collocations with SUCCESS

How to AGREE and DISAGREE in English?

Difference between person and people

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