- Belated refers to something delayed or late, such as a belated apology.
- You typically can’t use belated to describe someone with punctuality problems.
- Happy belated birthday is not grammatically correct because belated modifies birthday.
- Belated in belated happy birthday describes your greeting.
- Add -ly to make belated an adverb.
Even self-proclaimed grammar experts write “Happy belated birthday” on social media. However, this widely accepted phrase is actually incorrect. Learn why it’s wrong—and what you should say instead—in this helpful guide.
In an ideal world, we’d never have to wish someone a happy belated birthday. After all, social media sends greeting reminders for everyone, from Grandma to your cousin’s third-grade teacher.
But, sometimes, it happens. And, better late than never. So, what do you say? Happy belated and belated happy birthday?
How can we share warm birthday wishes (albeit late) while honoring grammatical guidelines?
Is it Correct to Say Happy Belated Birthday?
When people want to send late birthday greetings, they often declare, “Happy belated birthday!” or “Happy late birthday!” But these are not correct. The correct way to wish some one well when you miss their special day is “Belated Happy Birthday.” What’s the difference? When you say “Happy belated birthday,” you imply that the birthday itself was late and not your greetings.
Whether you like it or not, a birthday comes right on schedule each year. When you say “Belated happy birthday,” you refer to your greetings being belated and not the birthday. So, make sure to place belated in front of happy birthday, not in the middle. With the correct sentence structure, belated is sure to modify your greeting, not someone’s annual trip around the sun.
Let’s dig a little deeper into the definition of belated and then explore grammar rules for late happy birthday greetings.
What Does Belated Mean?
Belated meaning: arriving or occurring later than the usual time
Examples of Belated Actions
Examples of Belated Events
Can You Use Belated to Describe a Person?
We usually don’t use the word belated when describing an individual with punctuality problems.
Karen isn’t belated. She’s late.
Karen can be tardy for work, but she can’t show up for work belated.
However, sometimes it makes sense to describe a person with the word belated.
For example, we can say a belated representative was appointed after the deadline. It’s also okay to tell your boss made a belated appearance at an important meeting.
We know what some of you are thinking right now. And yes, many greeting cards break grammar rules.
Card aisles are filled with happy belated birthday cards and gifts but resist temptation while shopping. Just because the phrase is socially acceptable doesn’t mean it’s correct.
Can You Use Belated as an Adverb?
Transform belated from an adjective to an adverb by adding -ly at the end of the word. You might not see or use this word often, though. After all, wishing someone a belated happy birthday is easier than the alternative.
While correct, this statement is wordy and sounds overly formal. You could say, “Sorry, I missed your birthday.”
If you go the belatedly route, remember the word modifies a verb. It doesn’t modify the birthday itself.
You can belatedly wish someone a happy birthday, but you can’t say, “I hope you have a happy birthday belatedly.” So like with happy belated birthday, it just doesn’t make sense.