2

Source

I've seen this here and there with and without the indefinite article.

I think it should be "happy birthday to wonderful you"

What's the correct one?

  • Greeting cards can not be expected to observe the rules of grammar, any more than street signs or cartoons. The indefinite article here is a stylistic choice made by the writer. – P. E. Dant Aug 29 '16 at 23:53
  • Why do you think it should be "happy birthday to wonderful you"? – user3169 Aug 30 '16 at 0:51
  • Either version, with or without the article, is correct. – Alan Carmack Aug 30 '16 at 0:56
  • @P.E.Dant I know that. This one is not really sign. No need to mind the amount of space. A stylistic choice? What do you mean? Could go either way? What about grammatically speaking? – Dunno Aug 30 '16 at 9:30
  • @user3169 cos there's nothing new to modify the pronoun to justify the presence of the article. Meet the new me (I'm all that different now) or meet another me (someone who looks like me) These 2 work. But a wonderful you it's still you no matter how wonderful you are – Dunno Aug 30 '16 at 9:34
2

Both versions are grammatical, whether they appear in greeting cards or not.

The customary birthday greeting in the United States is

Happy birthday!

See Macmillan.

You can also throw in a 'to phrase':

Happy birthday to you!

And this is the most repeated line of the Happy birthday song, which Wikipedia says Guinness Book of Records says is the "most recognized song in the English language."

You can modify you with an adjective, so you can say

Happy birthday to wonderful you.

Here you are saying that the person you are wishing happy birthday to is wonderful.

The song You, wonderful you also shows you modified by wonderful (YouTube)

Next, the version with the indefinite article is also possible:

Happy birthday to a wonderful you.

The use of the indefinite article with a proper noun or, in this case, a pronoun, can be used to mean 'one possible kind of you' or 'one type of you' or 'one version of you'. Here, the speaker is technically only wishing 'the version of you that is wonderful' a happy birthday. This does admit that other versions of you exist such as 'an angry you', a surly you', 'a greedy you', and even 'a dead you'–which would be speaking about a hypothetical 'dead you' if you were still alive, as in

The only you I want to see is a dead you.

The use of a wonderful you might seem more limiting than just wonderful you; this could be the case, since it is more realistic: you are not wonderful all the time, but you are wonderful part of the time. On the other hand, it can also be used to declare that a person (you) does indeed have 'a version that is wonderful'. Thus, its use in a greeting card, for example, allows the recipient (you) to revel in the fact that 'a wonderful version' of her exists, even though she knows that there are other "versions" or manifestations of herself that are not wonderful. Thus, there is some subtle psychology possibly going on in a wonderful you that is not there in wonderful you.

The use of the indefinite article before you is similar to the use of the indefinite article before a proper noun, as discussed in the question & answers about 'a screaming Dudley'.

I've seen a lot of answers and comments on ELL, especially about article usage, that say "it's a stylistic choice." But it is the difference in meaning, expressed by the grammar of a sentence, that provides the "stylistic" choices.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.