English everyday – congratulations

It’s my birthday! (It’s not, but stick with me)… What will you say to me? Happy Birthday? Congratulations? Something else?

It is a bit strange that in English we have one special word to express best wishes, greetings and compliments; Congratulations, but we don’t use that word for birthdays! What do we say?

We don’t say it at Christmas or Easter or new year, or other holidays. Instead say:

  • Happy birthday
  • Happy Easter
  • Happy Christmas
  • Happy new year
  • Happy holidays
  • Happy Eid
  • Happy Hanukkah
  • Happy (religious holiday)
  • Happy (day of the week!)
  • Happy Mothers’/ Fathers’/ Children’s/ Grandparents’/ Teachers’ Day

But we do use congratulations for an achievement, or after hard work

  • Congratulations on your exam results/ driving test/ graduation.
  • Congratulations on (buying) your new house.
  • Congratulations on your new baby.
  • Congratulations on your new job/ your promotions/ your retirement.
  • Congratulations on your hard work/ your success/ your achievement.

Yes, it’s always with an ‘s’ when it’s a noun. There is a verb to congratulate – you can say “I congratulated him on his graduation,” for example.

Weddings and engagements are slightly different, because they’re not celebrating hard work, but it’s ok to say:

  • Congratulations on your engagement/ your wedding/ your wedding anniversary

Maybe wedding anniversaries are an achievement! It’s also ok to say:

  • Happy wedding day (but not happy wedding)
  • Happy (wedding) anniversary.

What other expressions do we use to express good wishes? Let me know below.

Like this? I want to help you get more confident with your English speaking. Get my free 5-day email course Speak Happy English and learn all about how to speak more confidently. Sign up here

Published by Abbie

English teacher, coach and writer. Helping English learners and teachers get more confident in their skills.

One thought on “English everyday – congratulations

  1. Hi Abbie, this is useful. I appreciate your kind gesture.You know what, now, I am going to change these using different words and phrase so that I can create strong memories.Thank you very much.


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