Congratulations on, Congratulations For, Congratulations To

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Today we’ve got a really interesting question from a student – in English, do we say “congratulations on your anniversary” or “congratulations for your anniversary”?

The answer to this question isn’t quite as simple as it seems!

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Now let’s look at this word “congratulations” – the first thing to know is it’s always used in the plural, so we always say “congratulations” and not “congratulation,” OK?

Congratulations + Noun

When congratulations is followed by a NOUN, then we always say congratulations ON.

Here are some examples:

  • Congratulations on the promotion.
  • Congratulations on your new home.
  • Congratulations on your wedding.
  • Congratulations on the birth of your baby.
  • Congratulations on your success.

Congratulations + VERB

When congratulations is followed by a VERB in the -ING form, then we can say ON or FOR, but ON is much, much more common:

  •  Congratulations on being elected class president.
  •  Congratulations on graduating from college.
  •  Congratulations on finding a job.
  •  Congratulations on finishing the marathon.
  •  Congratulations for winning the gymnastics competition.
  •  Congratulations for getting the highest grade in the class.

“For” can only be used in cases where the person achieved something, not when something happened to them.

So we’d always say “congratulations ON winning the lottery” (since that was by luck and not skill or hard work) but we can say “congratulations FOR or ON winning the gymnastics competition” since that is an achievement.

Again, at least in American English, “ON” is still much more common even when talking about achievements.

Congratulations to

What about “congratulations to”?

We occasionally use that if we want to specify the person/group receiving our congratulations:

For example, if the president of the company is making a speech to all employees and she wants to specify one group, she could say “Congratulations to the marketing team for finishing this project in record time.”

Or if my friend and his wife recently adopted a child, I could say “Congratulations to both of you on becoming parents!”

Congratulate + a person

When we use “congratulate,” the verb, then we NEVER use “to” after it:

  •  He congratulated me on quitting smoking.
  •  I’d like to congratulate her on her spectacular performance.
  •  Before I forget, let me congratulate you on your Ph.D.

OK? I hope this helped show when we use each preposition, but if you’re not sure, just use “on.” Congratulations on finishing this lesson!