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Is it correct to say I am happy for you are improving! or does it necessarily have to be with that, as in here: I am happy that you are improving! ?

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The first could be correct if for means because, but it needs a comma.

I am happy, for [because] you are improving.

The second is also correct - it has a subtly different meaning but they are essentially the same.

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Your first sentence is perfectly fine but if you add a comma, it would reduce slight confusion.

I am happy, for you are improving!

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The sentence is not correct. It can be corrected as such: I am happy that you are improving OR you need to add a comma or pause while speaking after "happy": I am happy, for you are improving (for means because)

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