Happy Belated Birthday – Is It Right?

Thanks to the invention of Facebook, we have a tool to remind us about the upcoming birthday of your friends and family member. With the timely notification, we wouldn’t able to forget to celebrate their birthdays. However, it is not a rare thing that we forget sending our best wishes for our friends and family members on their birthdays. Sometimes, we have something to do that we have to postpone sending our wishes until later on.


Since it is not so uncommon for late birthday wishes and gifts, late greetings is popular. You will find no difficulties at all in finding a gift card that says that you are late and still want to wish the birthday boy or girl a happy birthday. You might come across a card that say “happy belated birthday” with a cute design and want to buy it. But hold on, the greeting is not grammatically correct. Belated happy birthday should be the phrase that you are looking for.

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Belated Birthday or Belated Happy Birthday

When you look through all of the cards for late birthday wishes, it might appear to you that there are 2 ways these simple greetings are said. The first way is “Happy belated birthday” and the second way is “Belated happy birthday”.

You will also see that the former phrase “Happy belated birthday” is more common than the latter phrase. It is so popular that we all accept this as common sense and there is nothing to discuss about. However, in term of grammar and logic, this phrase is not right. Let’s me explain to you and you will see the problem with the phrase “happy belated birthday”.

What does “Happy belated birthday” mean?

To begin with, let’s learn a little bit more about the word – “belated”

So what does “belated” mean? It means being late. And the synonym of this word is the word “late”. Hence, when you say “happy belated birthday”, it is equivalent to “happy late birthday”.

As you have already known, when an adjective is placed before a noun, it will help to describe the noun. When the adjective “late” is placed before the noun “birthday”, it is to say that the birthday is late. Quite odd, isn’t it?

Since a birthday of a person is a date or an anniversary, it can’t be late or early. It can’t be postponed either. Just because you are late on sending your wishes and greetings don’t make the date of anyone’s birthday changed. Therefore, saying “belated birthday” doesn’t make sense. That is the reason why the phrase “happy belated birthday” is wrong in term of grammar and logical sense.

  • You can say a happy birthday but not a belated birthday.

While a birthday, or any date, can’t be late or early, a greeting on the anniversary can. A common birthday greeting is “happy birthday”. Hence, a late happy birthday greeting is “Belated happy birthday”. Only this phrase is correct.

  • Hence, when you write on a card, don’t write “I know it is late but happy belated birthday”.
  • Go for “I know it is late but belated happy birthday”. You can also omit the word “belated” and only say “Happy birthday. Sorry I missed it”.

The word “belated” is also useable if you are late on sending wishes and greetings for other occasions and anniversaries. For example, if you send the Christmas card on January, you should write “Belated Merry Christmas”.

Note that while the word “belated” and “late” are synonym, the word “belated” can only be placed in front of a noun.

  • You can either say: “Late congratulations” or “Belated congratulations”.
  • You can say: The meeting was at 6 and you arrived at 7. You were late.
  • You san’t say: The meeting was at 6 and you arrived at 7. You were belated.

​Overall, this article helps to explain why you should use “Belated happy birthday” instead of using Happy belated birthday”. Keep that in mind when you search for a late greeting card or when you write the greetings yourself. “Happy belated birthday” is a common error and you should avoid it.