English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

This question already has an answer here:

What is the difference between congratulation and congratulations?

share|improve this question

marked as duplicate by Hellion, David M, FumbleFingers, RyeɃreḁd, phenry Apr 9 '14 at 15:59

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

From NOAD:

congratulation |kənˌgra ch əˈlā sh ən; -ˌgrajə-| noun an expression of praise for an achievement or good wishes on a special occasion; the act of congratulating : he began pumping the hand of his son in congratulation. • ( congratulations) words expressing congratulation : our congratulations to the winners | [as exclam. ] congratulations on a job well done!

You make the call.

share|improve this answer

It is difficult to articulate the difference between them.

When you are speaking about the act of praise, a single act of praise is a congratulation, multiple is -s. You can almost always use the plural form and sound perfectly normal.

When you wish to praise someone:

I congratulate you. (much more formal, can easily sound distant or impersonal)

You have my congratulations. Shortened: Congratulations! or Congratulations on your wedding! (always plural in shortened forms seemingly expressing multiple praises, explanation for what the congratulation is for only necessary when it isn't clear)

share|improve this answer

The difference is very subtle :

  • "congratulation" is congratulating, that is having some joy, some pleasure, perhaps by yourself and even secretly, for instance because you have won at the lottery ;

  • congratulations" are the expression of that, for instance to a newly married couple.

The word comes from Latin congratulatio, with exactly the same meaning.

share|improve this answer
OED says your first sense, "Grateful and glad acknowledgement on one's own behalf, rejoicing" is obsolete. I suppose self-congratulation might not be, but that's related to your second sense. – Andrew Leach Oct 14 '13 at 9:34

protected by RegDwigнt Oct 14 '13 at 9:33

Thank you for your interest in this question. Because it has attracted low-quality or spam answers that had to be removed, posting an answer now requires 10 reputation on this site (the association bonus does not count).

Would you like to answer one of these unanswered questions instead?