Why do people always say congratulations not congratulation?

pickyx

Senior Member
Chinese
Why do people always say congratulations not congratulation?
Is it ok to say congratulation?
 
  • PaulQ

    Banned
    UK
    English - England
    It is perhaps because the longer version is "I give you many congratulations." It is the same with "thanks" (the short form of "I give my thanks to you.") English almost always gives more than one "congratulation" or "thank".

    It is possible to use the singular but it is rare:

    A: "My thanks to the whole team for the effort that they put in this year, and a special thank goes to John who sold the most items."

    B: "Stop it! This is not the time for congratulation, the job is not finished yet." (uncountable)

    C: "I don't think that John likes Peter. Did you notice that when Peter won the prize, John gave a congratulation that seemed insincere?"
     
    Last edited:

    wandle

    Senior Member
    English - British
    The reason presumably is that to use the singular is felt to be too limiting.
    Generosity is required by the situation and the plural is needed to convey that.
     

    OED Loves Me Not

    Senior Member
    Japanese - Osaka
    I believe that it is because, when English speakers think of the concept
    of congratulating someone, they think in terms of something in its plural
    form much more easily than in the singular form
    . This is true of any other
    concept that can be represented by a noun.

    Take the example of "plan(s)." People say "I have other plans" when they
    want to decline someone's invitation. They don't seem to say
    "I have another plan" in such situations.

    Speakers of English and perhaps many other Indo-European languages
    containing the concept of number (noun singularity and plurality)
    seem to think of things in their plural form first, before they
    begin to think of things in their singular form
    .

    Think of mathematical numbers. Most of the numbers are plural.
    Two boys --- this is plural. Three boys is plural too. One hundred is
    of course plural. Even zero is plural because they say zero boys,
    zero mistakes, and so on. Fractions and decimal numbers are
    considered as plural, such as 1.4 millimeters (which is plural)
    and 0.3 millimeters (which is plural as well).
    It is only "one boy" that is singular.

    As we reflect on all beings and things in the universe,
    we realize that most of them exist in plurality,
    rather than in singularity. We can't think of many things
    that exist alone. Humans exist in plurality. Fish, too.
    Planets and stars too.

    Thus, for speakers of English (and probably many other languages which
    have the concept of number), plurality comes first. Singularity is rather rare.

    This tendency seems really strange to us native speakers of languages
    which have no concept of number, such as Japanese, Chinese, and Korean.
    To us, there is basically no concept of number in the world. At least, when we use
    nouns, the nouns have no concept of number. Nouns don't change in form
    according to the quantity of each thing represented by a specific noun.
    For example, "kodomo" (which means "child" in Japanese) remains the same in form
    whether there is one child or many.

    This absence of the concept of number goes so far as to lead us to feel as though
    everything in the world is singular. That is why we native speakers of "no-number
    languages" tend to use nouns in singular form much oftener than we are supposed to
    however hard we try to use correct English.

    For us, native speakers of "no-number languages," therefore,
    singularity seems to come first, and then, after some thought,
    plurality comes. This is quite the opposite of speakers of English,
    French, German, and other languages having the concept of number.
     
    Last edited:

    sdgraham

    Senior Member
    USA English
    The real answer is still in post #2.

    Native speakers don't bother themselves with such questions as "why" where idiomatic usage is concerned.

    We simply repeat what our parents and others say as we gain the ability of speech.

    Then we become parents and our children say things the way we do.

    Then our children grow up and have children and ...... :)
     

    suzi br

    Senior Member
    English / England
    It is perhaps because the longer version is "I give you many congratulations." It is the same with "thanks" (the short form of "I give my thanks to you.") English almost always gives more than one "congratulation" or "thank".

    It is possible to use the singular but it is rare:

    A: "My thanks to the whole team for the effort that they put in this year, and a special thank goes to John who sold the most items."

    B: "Stop it! This is not the time for congratulation, the job is not finished yet." (uncountable)

    C: "I don't think that John likes Peter. Did you notice that when Peter won the prize, John gave a congratulation that seemed insincere?"
    I have to say example A sounds really forced to me. I would expect to hear "a special thank-you goes out to..."
     

    pickyx

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    Thanks to all of you. Very grateful though my confusion about why westerners distinguish singular and plural but easterners don't still there.
     
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