There are 3 different types of IF ONLY sentences:
1. Speaking about a desire:
Form: IF ONLY or I WISH + Simple Past
- To express a desire in the present or in the future.
Example: If only I knew how to use a computer. (I don’t know how to use a computer but I would like to learn how to use one.)
- When you use the subjunctive of the verb ‘to be’ (the mood of wanting what is not) and the form is “were”.
Example: I wish I were twenty years old again. (I am already older, so I am talking about a present desire to re-live the past.)
2. Talking about regret:
Form: IF ONLY or I WISH + Past Perfect
- To express sorrow or regret about a past action.
Example: If only I had woken up early. (I didn’t wake up early and I missed my bus.)
Example: I wish that I had remembered his birthday, then he would not be so sad.
Form: IF ONLY or I WISH + Would + Verb
- To complain about a behaviour that you would like to change if you could.
Example: I wish you wouldn’t arrive so late all the time. (I’m annoyed because you always come late and I want you to be here on time.)