Somewhere on Instagram I read a topic regarding the September 11th event (My condolences to all Americans and all humans and I really apologize for such an example here on the forum.)

Under the pics there was a caption as follows:

A new law mandates public schools across NY to allow a brief moment of silennce each year to mark the anniversary of the September 11th of the terrorist attacks.

And comments:

Person A) My condolences to the families of the victims, but how can you make this a law and force someone to do something?!
Person B) If there isn't some way to commemorate this each year, it will never be learned by the next generation.
Person A) It's been quiet for 30 seconds of your day. Why you so mad?
Person B) I'm not mad; lol. People just should not be forced to do this.
A student) As a student in NYC, who experienced the moment of silence today, I think it absolutely should be a law! It was incredibly meaningful and powerful. We lost so many people in NYC. We need the next generation of kids to be educated about that.

Screenshot 1, screenshot 2

When I read all these comments, I really enjoyed the way the young student looked at the world around her and was happy for her. I wanted to congratulate her for thinking like that and I commented:

  • I'd like to congratulate you on your understanding and for the way you think.

But the student replied:

  • Ummm, what?!

I was wondering how shall I imply this message in English to the student?

Longman Dictionary accepts my sentence:

• You congratulate someone on something:
I’d like to congratulate you on your new job.
Congratulations on your new job!
• You congratulate someone for doing something:
She congratulated me for getting a new job.

I was wondering what am I missing here? Please kindly let me know about it.

  • 4
    I don't think 'congratulate' sounds entirely idiomatic in this case. Your example from Longman also seems a little different from your own usage. Usually, you would congratulate someone because of a recent achievement of theirs or a pleasant event that has recently happened to them. It is not generally used as other compliments are. Consider using 'commend', 'praise', 'admire', etc., instead, in regards to complimenting someone for their attitude or outlook. Check here for further discussions: ell.stackexchange.com/questions/70703/congratulated-or-praised
    – Wehage
    Sep 11, 2019 at 19:24

1 Answer 1


As @Wehage mentions in the comments, congratulating someone for being sensitive and thoughtful does not sound entirely idiomatic in this scenario. Congratulations are given when someone has successfully achieved a challenging task such as passing an exam, earning a degree, winning a sports event, a prestigious award or getting a new job. You also congratulate friends and family for joyous, special, occasions such as a wedding, a job promotion, the birth of a child, a relative who celebrates their 100th birthday and so on.

In the instagram dialogue cited by the OP, there is no such joyous event, no special occasion. The OP is impressed by the maturity and thoughtfulness shown by one of the speakers, and wishes to compliment them. Therefore, I'd suggest a different verb be used

I'd like to applaud you for your understanding, for the way you think sensitivity and maturity.

Lexico says

1.1 Show strong approval of (a person or action); praise.

  • ‘You are applauded for your professional prowess and dexterity in a business venture.’

On the Internet,

"As a parent of an autistic son, I applaud you for sticking up for something so misunderstood. I have so much respect for you and wish nothing but the best for your family." Women's Health

  • Well @Mari-Lou A perhaps people often do not use "congratulatory messages in this way as a reference to someone's understanding in English. Now let's say I am going to congratulate an adult in similar situation. Then I wonder if I should remove "...your sensitivity and maturity" (especially maturity") and just say: "I'd like to applaud for your understanding." Would it sound natural and idiomatic to you stand-alone or I have to add something else to it? I'm a bit confused.
    – A-friend
    Sep 12, 2019 at 8:21
  • I'd prefer sensibility or compassion if the event was particular sensitive or traumatic. If someone shows understanding, it means they are able to empathise with that person or with their choice of action.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Sep 12, 2019 at 8:46
  • But @Mari-Lou A, did you mean "sensitivity" or "sensibility" both in your previous comment and in your original answer? Do you mean that you would rather using "sensibility" instead of "understanding" when you are going to applaud somebody? Also, I wonder if instead of "the way you think" I can say: "I congratulate you on your mindset". Does it sound okay to you?
    – A-friend
    Sep 12, 2019 at 8:52
  • 1
    They're both fine. I would not say congratulation to anyone's mindset. Gotta go!
    – Mari-Lou A
    Sep 12, 2019 at 8:54

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