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I would like to translate this pattern "I wish I had/hadn't done XXX", precisely within this context: I went somewhere and I wish I actually hadn't.

I could come up with:

行かなければ良かったです

Whereas Google Translate says:

私はそこに行っていなかったことを願っています。

Who's right and are there different ways to express this?

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7  
Google is rarely right ;) –  Szymon Aug 4 at 1:48
    
@Szymon: haha indeed, but it might at least give the correct grammar, at least, I hoped –  Aki Aug 4 at 1:51
    
Do you want a literal translation of that includes "wish" as the verb or do you want to express the same sentiment of regret related to a choice? –  virmaior Aug 4 at 2:00
    
@virmaior: Both if available, I'd like to know my way around the different ways to express this –  Aki Aug 4 at 2:13
1  
If there's anything you shouldn't expect Google translate to be correct about, it's grammar. It always gives you the most literal translation possible. –  Ataraxia Aug 4 at 14:41

3 Answers 3

up vote 8 down vote accepted

Most naturally, it would be:

「行かなければよかった。」

Colloquially and naturally,

「行かなきゃよかった。」

The Google Translate has given you gibberish this time as it usually does. It makes little sense as it means:

"I pray that I did not go there."

The speaker does not even know if he went or not.

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2  
Hey @非回答者, I have merged your two accounts together so you should be the owner of this post now. I am deleting the comments on here just to clean them up. Hope this helps! –  jmac Aug 4 at 6:31
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Side question: あきさんがGoogle Translateを使かなければよかった。 Does this sound right? –  3 to 5 business days Aug 4 at 6:48
    
@3to5businessdays 「あきさん(は)、グーグル翻訳なんか使わなければよかった(のに)。」とか・・・ –  Choko Aug 5 at 7:29

From my experience, the results of Google Translate for sentences in Japanese to English are rarely correct.

You might find that a single word is sometimes correctly translated, however there is no one-to-one mapping between the Japanese and English vocabularies, and depending on the context you might need to use a different word than the one provided by Google.
Remember that while English language is usually classified as a low-context language (it is "easier" to makes sentences that completely describe a situation), Japanese is more of a high-context language (a single sentence taken out of its context can have many different interpretations).
This makes it extremely hard to translate sentences one by one, which is I think the only way Google Translate can operate.

As for the grammar, the structures returned by Google Translate are often awkward.
While your example does not sound that wrong to my ears (I am not a native speaker so I can't be 100% positive about that), it does not sound natural neither. In a conversation you would typically drop of the 私は and そこに, and I think you would prefer the -なければ良かった form to the heavier/longer -なかったことを願う.

So in conclusion I would suggest that you put more trust in yourself than in Google Translate, the service has still a long way to go to provide a satisfying support for the Japanese language.
Of course the best would be to ask a (native) human speaker, instead of a computerized service. However you might not always have access to one, so your reflex to turn to Stack Exchange was a good one.

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Like @wil said, neither sound wrong, just stilted and not what most people would likely say. Try these:

行くんじゃなかったなぁ。
行かなかったらよかったのになぁ。
行かねばよかったものを。

An explicit "wish" verb isn't needed to express this feeling in Japanese and IMO feels unnatural especially for something that has already happened.

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6  
「行かなければ良かったです」は普通に使うと思います(formalとcasualの中間的な状況で)。「行かねばよかったものを」は現代人は使わないと思います。時代劇‌​みたいなので… –  naruto Aug 4 at 3:38
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Where are you located, Brandon? I'm curious if your suggestions might be influenced by any particular dialect. –  Eiríkr Útlendi Aug 4 at 8:05
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行かねばよかったものを should have been marked as (literary). I stand by my other suggestions though. However, as @Eiríkr Útlendi eludes to, obviously colored by living in south Osaka. I would never say or even hear なければ良かった. I just tested my wife even "行かなかったらよかった" is what popped out of her mouth for "I wish I hadn't gone" just the same. Though probably 行かんかったらよかった would be even more common. –  Brandon Aug 4 at 13:08
    
Thanks for following up, very interesting –  Aki Aug 5 at 0:18

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