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Glad and Happy

Glad and Happy
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Today we answer a question from Morgan in China. Morgan writes:


I have a question about the words “glad” and “happy.” In which situations would I use them? I am confused by these words.

Thanks so much. -- Morgan, China.


Dear Morgan,

Thank you for writing! First, let us take a look at the two words and see how they are the same and how they are different.

Use either ‘happy’ or ‘glad’

“Glad” and “happy” both share the meaning of the feeling of pleasure, joy or delight. Sometimes the two words can be used the same way. In sentences with the words “be,” “look” or “feel,” “glad” and “happy” are very similar, so either one can be used. Here are two examples:

He feels glad about how things turned out.

She looks happy with her coat.

You can also use “glad” or “happy” when you want to say that someone is willing to do something. For example:

I would be glad to join you.

I would be happy to help you.

Use ‘happy’ only

One way in which you would use “happy” and not “glad” is when you are describing a feeling of pleasure and enjoyment because of your life or situation. For example:

She was a very happy child.

Happy is better in this sentence for this reason: the child was happy because of conditions in her situation. It was more than just one event. If you were to say that the child was glad, it would be a temporary feeling. For example:

She was very glad when her father came home.

Another time when you would use “happy” instead of “glad” is when it is used as an adjective -- changing the meaning of the following noun. Here are a few examples:

I could hear the child’s happy laughter from the other room.

They have had a very happy marriage.

Those were happy times.

Another way in which “happy” is used is when it is used as part of a greeting or wish for someone on a holiday or special occasion. You would always use “happy,” not “glad,” for a greeting like this:

We are wishing you happy holidays!

I hope that helps to answer your question, Morgan.

What question do you have about American English? Send us an email at

And that's Ask a Teacher.

I’m Gregory Stachel.

And I’m Jill Robbins.

Gregory Stachel and Jill Robbins wrote this story for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.


Words in This Story

joy - n. a feeling of great happiness

delight - n. a strong feeling of happiness; great pleasure or satisfaction

pleasure - n. a feeling of happiness, enjoyment, or satisfaction; a pleasant or pleasing feeling

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