Scenario: you’re walking down the street when you bump into someone you’re friendly with. You happen to know that it’s their birthday soon and that you probably won’t see them on their actual birthday.
You’d like to wish them a happy birthday but how are you going to do it?
Is It Correct to Say “Advance Happy Birthday”?
While it is technically grammatically correct to say “advance happy birthday”, this is not standard phrasing and will appear unusual to native English speakers. If you need to send a birthday message early, it is instead typical to wish someone a “happy birthday in advance” or an “early happy birthday”.
Although “advance happy birthday” can technically be considered correct English, it’s not stylistically correct. Therefore, if you’re wondering how to say “happy birthday in advance”, the most standard way to do so is exactly like that: “happy birthday in advance”.
The word “advance” is an adjective, which is a type of modifying word. This means that it changes the meaning of the noun that it’s attached to. In this case, that noun is “birthday”, as “happy” is also an adjective modifying that noun.
Let’s look at how to use “advance happy birthday” in a sentence so we can better understand this:
- Did you remember to wish him an advance happy birthday?
When “advance” is placed before “happy birthday”, the way it modifies the whole idiomatic phrase makes it read as though the whole birthday has been brought forward in time.
Let’s look at one more example:
- I’m making her an advance birthday cake.
Like “happy birthday”, “birthday cake” is an idiomatic phrase – it’s two words that are combined so frequently that we know to treat them as a single entity. As such, when “advance” modifies the phrase, it reads as though it is describing the type of birthday cake and lacks clarity.
So, it is technically correct to say “advance happy birthday”, this phrase would seem off to Native English Speakers. In that case, let’s look at what to say instead of “advance happy birthday”.
Other Ways to Say “Advance Happy Birthday”
Other ways to say “advance happy birthday” are “happy birthday in advance”, “happy birthday for (the date)” or “happy early birthday”. All of these synonyms use a different sentence structure than “advance happy birthday”, which adds clarity to the sentiment.
1. Happy Birthday in Advance
As we mentioned earlier, a typical way to wish someone an “advance happy birthday” is “happy birthday in advance”.
The Google Ngram Viewer can’t find any results for “advance happy birthday”. However, “happy birthday in advance” has been rapidly climbing in popularity since the beginning of the 2000s.
The phrase has had an interesting history, which is tracked in a delightfully wibbly wobbly pattern on the graph if you care to look at it.
It emerged in the 1940s, before promptly disappearing and reappearing in the 1950s. It dips low in the 1960s then hits a peak in the 1970s, only to plummet in the 1980s. It then started climbing in the 1990s and largely continues to do so.
Let’s look at some examples of how to use “happy birthday in advance” in a sentence:
- It’s so great to see you, happy birthday in advance.
- I’m just dropping in to wish you a happy birthday in advance.
- Hello Meg, happy birthday in advance!
When “advance” is placed before “happy birthday” or “birthday cake”, it sounds as though both these idiomatic phrases are being brought forward in time. When “advance” is at the end, it’s clearer that the whole of the prior sentence is taking place at a prior point in time.
2. Happy Birthday For (the date)
Another way to say “advance happy birthday” is to say “happy birthday for” the specific day, date, or period of time.
Let’s look at some examples of this in a sentence:
- I would wish you a happy birthday for next week, but I despise you.
- She wondered whether she should wish him a happy birthday for tomorrow or pretend she couldn’t remember when his birthday was.
- Dear nephew, I am writing to wish you a happy birthday for next month now, as I expect I shall die soon.
The specificity of this sentence structure is great as it makes it clear when the birthday is taking place. This ensures that we understand it is only the “wish” that is taking place at a prior point in time and not the whole “happy birthday”.
3. Happy Early Birthday
One other option for wishing someone an “advance happy birthday” is to wish them a “happy early birthday”.
Now this one is a little strange, as you might think that the same adjective rule applies here that did in “advance happy birthday”.
Surely, as “birthday” is the noun in the sentence, when we put both “happy” and “early” in front of it, this will also sound like the birthday is being brought forward in time.
The reason that it’s actually different is because in “advance happy birthday” the words “happy” and “birthday” are acting as a noun phrase. This is when a noun combines with a modifier and creates a phrase that continues to function as a noun would.
If you don’t believe us, first of all how dare you, and secondly, just check the Google Ngram Viewer. Here we can see that this is actually the most popular way to wish someone a, well, early happy birthday.
The order in which we place our adjectives matters. In this case, the placement of “early” breaks up the noun phrase.
Let’s look at some examples:
- I wished him a happy early birthday, but his birthday is actually nine months away, so it was a bit too early.
- She didn’t even wish me a happy early birthday; can you believe that?
- We sent them a happy early birthday card, but it arrived late.
Advance Happy Birthday or Advanced Happy Birthday?
Neither “advance happy birthday”, nor “advanced happy birthday” are the best way to wish someone an early happy birthday. However, “advance happy birthday” is better than “advanced happy birthday”. As an adjective, “advanced” means modern or futuristic, or that something is harder or at a more difficult level.
As a verb, to “advance” something is to move something forward or develop and improve it. When you wish someone an “advance happy birthday” it sounds as though you’re moving their birthday wish forward in time. “Advanced” is the past tense of this verb, which makes things more confusing!
“Advance” combined with “happy birthday” can also sound like you’re sending a group ahead to wish someone “happy birthday”. In the military, an “advance party” is a squad sent ahead of troops to perform reconnaissance.
Take a look at these examples of how “advance” can be used in this way:
- We’ll be sending our advance greetings via a squad of highly trained diplomats.
- The aliens have rejected our advanced greetings and are making the highly trained diplomats do silly little dances for them.
- We have sent the aliens an advanced happy birthday party team – they absolutely loved it!