New Year is that particular time when people start using a new calendar and the present calendar’s year count increases by one.
As soon as the countdown of the last seconds of the current year ticks off to zero, well-wishers greet their loved ones with “Happy New Year!”
Yet, there are those who choose to say “Happy New Years!” instead and insist that this is the right phrase to use.
The big question now is “Who makes more sense?”
Well, sit back and relax as we study and learn whether “Happy New Year” or “Happy New Years” is the right choice.
Which is correct: “Happy New Years” or “Happy New Year”?
When using the expression as an isolated greeting, “Happy New Year” is the right choice, in which capitalization needs to be observed. However, when referring to these holidays in general, “happy new years” is the correct one, where “happy” and “new” are adjectives modifying the noun “years.”
Choosing between “Happy New Years” and “Happy New Year”
This issue is probably one of the top grammar pet peeves that drive people insane across the world these days.
We can’t blame anybody because both expressions are being used by certain people for some reason.
Funny enough, this very issue has a lot to do with how logical yet illogical the English grammar could be in reality.
Some people say that “Happy New Years” is the better choice because this holiday is celebrated on several different dates worldwide.
That one should make enough sense.
However, others think otherwise because this holiday only falls on a single day and is only celebrated once a year.
That, too, makes a lot of sense for sure.
So, how then do we know which of these two equally-valid arguments to go for?
The answer lies in the overall context of the expression’s usage, which includes grammar, purpose, and audience.
Let us now find out how we can get around this catch-22 issue.
All about the expression “Happy New Years”
Perhaps nobody knows exactly when and where the “Happy New Years” greeting came about.
We can just assume that there should be someplace or some people to point our fingers to.
According to Gandhi, “You cannot tell if an idea is right or wrong until you try it” — and so they tried and then the controversy began.
“Happy New Years” should be used because there were so many dates that the early observants used before.
Wikipedia had listed no less than eight date-changes before they settled for January 1st, following the imposition of the Gregorian calendar.
This means that at least eight dates are used by different peoples of different regions of the world.
In Western Europe during the Middle Ages, celebration of the new year was moved by the authorities depending upon many factors.
These include the locale, people’s customs, and traditions. The dates include March 1, March 25, Easter, September 1, and December 25.
This must have been the argument used by the proponents of “Happy New Years.”
The many days that have become New Year’s day before January 1st is likely what they are referring to.
When to use “Happy New Years”
The impropriety of the use of “Happy New Years” is anchored on the fact that the singular form “year” must be used instead of the plural “years” because only one year is involved.
However, we can still use “happy new years” in our sentences and be correct. We can do that when we refer to new years in general.
Correct: Happy new years mean starting life anew and leaving all grudges in the past.
It’s also possible to just use “new years” instead of the usual greeting “happy new years” in general sentences.
Note the small letters used instead of capital letters in “new years” above because it is not the holiday that is being referred to.
All about the expression “Happy New Year”
Strict grammarians, though, are adamant that the correct greeting to be used on this occasion is “Happy New Year.”
From this vantage point, using the plural version “years” is incorrect because there is only one New Year’s day that the whole world celebrates.
Never the one to be put aside, the defenders of “happy new years” continued to argue that they were using the greeting in possessive form.
To rationalize this even further, they suggested putting an apostrophe after the “s” to make the distinction clearer.
Now the greeting would look like this: Happy New Years’, bringing it to the border of foolishness and ridiculousness.
So be careful. If you want to greet friends on January 1st, say “Happy New Year!” as this is the more widely-accepted form.
Feel free to add the name of the person you’re greeting to make the act of well-wishing warmer.
Just be careful what you wish for another person because he might also be experiencing some trouble during this time of the year.
Don’t forget to add a comma before or after the name of the person depending on how you want to structure your sentence.
Correct: John, happy New Year!
The way we refer to people directly and call them by their names or any term of endearment is what we call “direct address” in English.
When to use “Happy New Year”
This is the right phrase to use when we greet our friends and loved ones on the night of December 31st, which is New Year’s Eve.
For example, you can do this when you want to write an email to your professor on this special day.
Happy New Year to you and your family! I sincerely wish you good health and prosperity.
If you want to write something like the message above, feel free to check out other ways to wish someone good health for the upcoming year.
You may want to explore ways to wish someone success for the new year to come. That would also be context-appropriate.
Formatting “Happy New Year”
Each beginning letter is capitalized when “Happy New Year” is used as a greeting expression. Otherwise, there’s no need to capitalize.
In the next example, the phrase functions as a greeting and followed by a direct address.
The word “happy” also begins the sentence, and thus, it needs to be capitalized too.
Remember that the beginning of the year is a wonderful time to appreciate everything we have in life.
So, you might also want to consider writing a thank you note to your usual mailman to show your gratitude.
Correct: Happy New Year, Mr. Sanders! Thank you for your loyal service.
In the next example, though, the phrase is a part of the sentence, so capitalization doesn’t apply anymore.
When to not capitalize “new year” (lower case)
There are times when the “new year” is being discussed not as a holiday but just a regular year.
In these situations, the phrase “new year” need not be capitalized.
Correct: Ryan resolved to settle his outstanding balance first thing in the new year.
Correct: I signed a contract to extend my work in this company for a new year.
Take note that when “new year” is introduced by articles “a” and “the,” there’s no need to capitalize.
The apostrophe before “s” in “new year’s”
If the phrase becomes “Happy New Year’s” followed by a noun, adding the apostrophe would be grammatically correct.
It will show that the word “year” is in its possessive form, which means that the following noun belongs to the “new year.”
But, using the possessive phrase alone should be avoided. In other words, using “Happy New Year’s” as an isolated greeting is not right.
Whenever the apostrophe pops up, possession is indicated. It would be understood that any word that comes after “year’s” belongs to it.
Correct: Their new year’s itinerary includes a concert for the benefit of PWD’s.
Frequently Asked Questions on “Happy New Years” vs. “Happy New Year”
What do you say when you want to wish someone a happy new year?
Appropriate messages to wish someone a happy new year include those about good health, life prosperity, happiness, and success. An example would be as follows: “Happy New Year, Jane! I wish you the best health and wealth this year.”
Should it be “new year” or “the new year”?
We use the article “the” before “new year” when we refer to it as a general phrase, which is normally just a part of a sentence as in: “We both need to start the new year with a clean slate.”
When is it appropriate to say “happy new year” to someone?
It is best to greet someone with “Happy New Year” when the clock hits 12 am on the first day of the year, no matter whether the reference is the Gregorian or Lunar calendar.
Now you are all set to celebrate New Year’s Day, resting fully assured that you won’t ruin others’ day by saying the wrong greeting phrase, be it in your cards or emails.
Check and recheck your apostrophes, and make sure you got proper capitalization.
Raise your glass as you sing Auld Lang Syne. Happy New Year, everyone!
Hey fellow Linguaholics! It’s me, Marcel. I am the proud owner of linguaholic.com. Languages have always been my passion and I have studied Linguistics, Computational Linguistics and Sinology at the University of Zurich. It is my utmost pleasure to share with all of you guys what I know about languages and linguistics in general.