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I saw this sentence on a grammar test but I don't understand why we cannot use the word "congratulated". I checked and saw "congratulated" also uses the same structure ( congratulate somebody for doing something) but according to the book the answer is "praised".

Everybody ___ her for saving the old man from drowning.

From the discussion in the comments:

For me congratulate something you get after a long term phase effort..and there may be another phase in the future. For example, being admitted to Yale. But maybe at the end of a relatively smaller effort you can be praised. You can also be praised because of your manner. So maybe the guy who was saved is the one who should be congratulated, but on the other hand you can be congratulated when you won something like a contest.

  • Praise, or praised? – Nathan Tuggy Oct 12 '15 at 17:01
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    Please make sure you edit the question to use exactly the same words the book does. It matters a lot whether the book said "praise" or "praised". – Nathan Tuggy Oct 12 '15 at 17:07
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    @ColleenV hard to explain..I'll give it a go..For me congratulate something you get after a long term phase effort..and there may be another phase in the future. for example being admitted to Yale. but maybe at the end of a relatively smaller effort you can be praised..you can be praised because of your manner..so maybe the guy who was saved is the one who should be congratulated but on the other hand you can be congratulated when you won something like a contest. – Caramel Oct 12 '15 at 17:43
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    You're on the right track. So looking at the sentence again, does it make more sense to praise someone or congratulate someone for saving a life? If you have it figured out, it's OK to post an answer your own question. That will help other folks who might have a similar confusion between the two words. Looking up the definitions in a dictionary might help. – ColleenV Oct 12 '15 at 17:52
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    I don't think this should be closed as "answerable by a dictionary" - if you look at some of the definitions and synonyms, there is some overlap there that could be confusing to a learner. – ColleenV Oct 12 '15 at 19:44
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Let's look at the dictionary definitions and see how the meanings fit into our sentence:

Everybody ___ her for saving the old man from drowning.

Congratulate - to express to (a person) one's pleasure at good fortune or success

Some related words and phrases are compliment and "wish joy to"

Praise - to commend the worth of; express approval or admiration of

Some related words and phrases are admire, compliment, and... congratulate

If we look at the thesaurus, there seems to be a little bit of overlap, but for fluent speakers, the situations where you would use each word are very different. The key concept to remember for congratulate is "good fortune or success" and the key concept for praise is "approval and admiration".

You congratulate people to let them know that you are happy for them. You praise people to express your admiration or approval of them. You might praise a person directly, or you could praise them to other people. You would always congratulate someone directly. For example, "I congratulated Joe for winning the basketball game. Then, I talked to his coach and praised Joe for his teamwork."

So, keeping all of that in mind, let's look at the sentence:

A. Everybody (complimented her on her success or good fortune) for saving the man from drowning.

B. Everybody (expressed their admiration of) her for saving the man from drowning.

The B sentence makes more sense in this context. You congratulate people for good luck, or for their success. For example, "Everybody congratulated her on her promotion at work." You praise people when they do something that you approve of that is often something extraordinary (but not always). For example, "Everybody praised her for her courage when she swam in the rough seas to save a man from drowning." or "His father praised him for getting his homework done before going out to play."

  • Thanks..there are the same words like achievement or success for both definitions in the dictionaries which makes me confused..on the other hand I can distinguish them in their unique meanings..I was just wondering , if it were not test question, can you say that I would never said " Everybody congratulated her for saving the old man from drowning" I mean do you think it sounds nonsense – Caramel Oct 12 '15 at 19:57
  • @Caramel Grammatically it is OK, but it would be an odd choice and difficult for most people to understand your meaning in AmE. Maybe if it was a competition for lifeguards and she saved someone who was only pretending to be drowning faster than all of the other lifeguards you would congratulate her. – ColleenV Oct 12 '15 at 20:25
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    @Caramel After thinking about it, congratulate is telling someone that you are happy that something good has happened for them. We can be happy the old man was saved, but that isn't the same feeling of being happy for the person that saved him. We would congratulate her for receiving a medal because she saved the man and praise her for her heroism. – ColleenV Oct 12 '15 at 21:09
  • I understand..Thank you for spending your precious time for the question. – Caramel Oct 12 '15 at 21:33
  • This answer is wrong, because the book is wrong. – Araucaria Oct 13 '15 at 15:22
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The Original Poster is correct. The verb congratulate makes perfect sense here. We often congratulate people for doing things that are noble or admirable. They do not have to involve the person's own good fortune at all.

If the book has many examples like that, the Original Poster best get another book!

Here are a few million examples from the internet, where people get congratulated for saving something or other, including people's lives.

If you don't want to click on the link, I've pasted some below:

  • He told me her name was Jenna, and congratulated me for saving her.
  • My team congratulated me for saving the tortoise.
  • She congratulated me for saving a life in dangerous circumstances.
  • He congratulated me for saving the man's life and said that CNN and the New York Times wanted to interview me, but unfortunately we were due to fly out to Canada
  • Everyone congratulated me for saving the Salarian.
  • All my other friends came over to and congratulated me for saving them all and killing Berry.
  • I was quite crummy after 16 hours on buses, but to my surprise, the Admiral greeted me warmly and congratulated me for saving the plane.
  • It's all about context. The context is that this is a test with a choice between two words, praise and congratulate. In the absence of any other context, praise is the better choice. – ColleenV Oct 13 '15 at 15:33
  • @ColleenV It's a mistake in the test. It's more likely an oversight / editing problem than a genuine preference, it seems to me. You might easily get a near identical question with the opposite answers! – Araucaria Oct 13 '15 at 15:35
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    There are just as many usages of "praised me for saving" as "congratulated me for saving". It's a bad question, no doubt. My answer isn't wrong (although maybe I stated too strongly that I wouldn't use congratulate) and neither is yours. – ColleenV Oct 13 '15 at 15:36

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