English everyday

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!

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.

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1 comment 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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