‘Happy about’ vs. ‘happy with’ in English

by Jakub Marian

Tip: See my list of the Most Common Mistakes in English. It will teach you how to avoid mis­takes with com­mas, pre­pos­i­tions, ir­reg­u­lar verbs, and much more (PDF Version).

The distinction between “happy about” and “happy with” is a subtle one, and sometimes the two expressions are quite interchangeable. As a rough guide, here’s how you can recognize when to use which:

be happy with = be satisfied with something you possess or have experienced
be happy about = be pleased by; be glad that something happened

For example, if you are satisfied with your car, you could say:

I am happy with my car. It has served me well.

and if you are satisfied with your own actions, you can say:

I am happy with my life.

On the other hand, if you want to express that someone is (not) pleased by some news, you can use “happy about”:

The prime minister is not happy about the recent critical report.

Nevertheless, you will hear some native speakers use the two expressions quite interchangeably, so even if you confuse them, you will likely be understood. If you follow the usage guide outlined above, you also reduce the risk of sounding unnatural.

By the way, if you haven’t read my guide on how to avoid the most common mistakes in English, make sure to check it out; it deals with similar topics.

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