Languages are human systems of communication, either spoken or written, which are made up of sounds and written symbols. Communication takes place when these characters are put into words and expressions in a structured and conventional way. The way these symbols are organised will highly depend on what we want to achieve in a conversation or written context. If we want to ask for some advice, for example, we tend to use words in a specific disposition, the same is applied when we want to express an opinion, buy some food, ask somebody out, etc. This is what we call functional language, which can be labelled as the language we need in different day-to-day situations. The more functional language you learn, the more real-life situations you can deal with; you can also learn different expressions for different contexts, which is what we are going to explore in this entry. Therefore, we will analyse how to use language when we want to congratulate someone.


To congratulate is to tell somebody that you are pleased and happy about their success or achievements, you can even congratulate yourself. This word comes from Latin and it is the combination of the stem ‘com’ and the word ‘gratulari’, the former means ‘together with’ while the latter is translated as ‘give thanks, show joy’ meaning something similar to ‘wish joy’. In terms of use, there are many reasons why you should congratulate someone, check the following information of the most common instances when people are congratulated in English culture:

New baby in the familyNew homeJust marriedRetirementNew jobNew graduateMilestone anniversaryMilestone birthdayPromotion at work Winning an election

As we said before, there are many reasons why to congratulate someone, however, once you have identified the context the celebration is taking place, you will see that the way you use language may vary, along with the options you have to express this function of language.


Now that we have a definition for congratulation, it is time to check some day-to-day situations when you have to congratulate someone, and analyse how language changes. In the following table, you will find examples of situations when congratulations are needed, please pay attention to the context and whether the situation is formal or informal to see how language use varies:


Informal situation


You could say

Your friend Jack has just passed an important module at university. 

Well done, Jack!That’s fantastic!Terrific!It was great to hear that!Good job! You did it! Way to go! Congrats!


Formal situation


You could say

One of your colleagues you do not know very well, has just got a promotion at work. 

Let me congratulate you on your new promotion.I would like to congratulate you on.Warmest congratulations on your achievement. Allow me to offer my congratulations on this new achievement of yours.I heard about your promotion. Congratulations! 


As you can see in the example above, the use of language changes according to the context, which allows you to identify who you are talking to and what is the setting of the conversation. In the first case, you are talking to somebody who is very close to you and probably you are at the university, during the break. Your friend has just told you about his maths results, and the language you could use to congratulate him is precise, full of emotions to confirm the closeness that you have with this person. On the other hand, when you want to congratulate somebody who is not very close to you, the language choices that you have are quite formal in the sense that they use full sentences, avoid contractions, and are quite distant, intended to show respect for the person you are talking to. 


You can use different expressions when you congratulate someone; you just need to keep in mind the level of formality of the situation and the closeness you have to the person you are interacting with. Therefore, the following table provides you with more expressions on congratulations which have been classified according to the level of formality. 



Hats off!Good job!You rock!SensationalGood one mate!You’re a genius!You are the best!You’ve got it.I’m impressed Pat on the back You’re doing beautifully. Congratulations on your well-deserved success.Heartfelt congratulations to you.Congratulations and best wishes for your …So pleased to see you are accomplishing great things.Simply overjoyed to hear your good news.What an impressive achievement.



At this point, you may be wondering what to say if the person who is being congratulated is you. In those cases, you can reply using the following:

Informal: ThanksThanks a lot.Nice of you to say.


Formal:Thank you very much for saying so.How nice/great/kind/good of you to say so. 

Just remember that there are many expressions for this language function, and the key to know how to use them is to identify the day-to-day situation you are in, along with its participants and the level of formality.

This article was updated on February 7, 2022

Author: Jared Curtis