When you sing the happy birthday song, do you say

happy birthday dear (person's name)


happy birthday (person's name)

  • 4
    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it is asking whether a word can be omitted in singing a traditional song, which is a matter of opinion, and being song lyrics, is not dependent on conventional English grammar or usage to begin with. – choster Apr 14 '19 at 3:46
  • Given that when I was learning foreign languages at school, they always had us learn to sing "happy birthday" in that language, I can understand why a learner would want to know about this. – SamBC Apr 15 '19 at 13:23
  • @choster Well, you can explain exactly that in the answer. – Michael Rybkin Apr 17 '19 at 18:07

You have to use dear to fit the traditional tune of the song, otherwise it's missing a note. Additionally, the most commonly used version you hear in America has dear in it, even if it makes the song awkward.

Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you, happy birthday dear (name), happy birthday to you.

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  • 1
    Well that's debatable. How about "Happy birthday Alexander"? Stuffing "dear" in there makes things very awkward. – Nathan Tuggy Mar 17 '18 at 3:23
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    I've sung the birthday song hundreds of times. That's how the song goes. Usually the lyric just gets a little awkward if their name doesn't fit, but they still use dear, and since you downvoted I will provide proof: en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Happy_Birthday_to_You a quick Google search verifies what I'm saying. – Element115 Mar 17 '18 at 6:37
  • In my experience, you always sing "Dear ______" even if it makes things very awkward. – stangdon Mar 17 '18 at 13:14
  • @Element115: Well, no, it really doesn't prove anything of the kind, since it claims no such thing: the article just isn't that specific. (It does, of course, mention the normal pattern with "dear" in it. It does not claim that this must and shall always be sung even with three-, four-, or five-syllable names. That would be an extrapolation, and one that I specifically denied as valid.) – Nathan Tuggy Mar 17 '18 at 14:41
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    A US court held "The 1935 copyright held by Warner/Chappell applied only to a specific piano arrangement of the song, not the lyrics or melody." Traditional songs tend to have many variations, and someone copyrighting a particular version doesn't make one variation more correct, it just makes that version more expensive to sing in public. Nathan is giving you feedback that can help you improve your answer. If "dear" MUST be sung, you should edit your answer to make that clear and explain why. Folks can't reverse their DV unless the post is edited even if they are convinced by your comments. – ColleenV Mar 19 '18 at 3:44

You may or may not use dear, as necessary to fit (or as nearly as possible fit) the metre. If a person has one or two syllables in their name, you need the extra syllable to fit. If a person has four or more, it would make it more difficult to fit the metre. However, some are so much in the habit of using dear that they use it even for longer names.

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