If You’re Happy and You Know It Nursery Rhyme-Lyrics, History, Video, Lesson Plans & More

If You’re Happy and You Know It is one of the most famous nursery rhymes sung by children and adults alike. I remember singing the song in school and Sunday school when I was only five years old!

But was The Happy song, as it’s sometimes called, always this famous? What inspired its origin, and who came up with it? I will answer those questions and more in this article, so stay tuned.

animation picture of waving children

Let’s make a happy jump into the song’s history and see the lessons it offers.


The lyrics have one first verse, the template for all the other verses. Only the actions are switched out in the preceding verses.

Lyrics For If You’re Happy and You Know It As Sung Today

Here is how the first verse goes.

If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands
(Everyone claps twice)
If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands
(Everyone claps twice)
If you’re happy and you know it, and you really want to show it
If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands.
(Everyone claps twice)

For the preceding verses, replace clap your hands with other actions.

The most common replacement actions are:

Stomp your feet!
Slap your knees!
Snap your fingers!
Nod your head!
Turn around!
Shout hooray!
Do all three!
Shout hooray!

The corresponding actions accompany each of the words added. Depending on the region or country, the actions can differ from what we have here.

Some versions have” then your face will surely show it” in place of the third line.

Full Original Lyrics For If You’re Happy and You Know It

The song hasn’t seen many changes from when it first appeared. The original first verse has remained the same.

Only the actions seem to change depending on where you come from. The song’s basic structure referring to the clapping of hands is a part of most versions heard today.

If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands
If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands
If you’re happy and you know it, and you really want to show it
If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands.

If You’re Happy and You Know It Versions for Emotional and Other Learning

Many teachers and parents will often change the emotion being sung about ‘happy’ with other emotions or feelings for example:

If you’re sad and you know it, cry boo hoo (rub your fists in your eyes like a baby)

If you’re angry/mad and you know it, stamp your feet

If you’re sleepy/tired and you know it, give a yawn

If you’re brave and you know it, give a roar

If you’re scared/worried and you know it, say ‘oh no!’

If you’re surprised and you know it, say ‘oh my’

If you’re sleepy and you know it, give a yawn

You can change the emotion and action to anything you like, which is part of the brilliance of this nursery rhyme!


Who Wrote if You’re Happy and You Know It?

There is no record of the person who created the song. However, the first publishing was in the late 1950s in the United States of America. The song also has reported roots in Latvia, Spain, and Latin America, though there is little to show that.

One of the earliest publications was in the collection, Constructive Recreational Activities. It was also published in a manual for nursing homes in 1966 and a drama books collection in 1967.

In 1971, Joe Raposo, an American singer and songwriter, was given credit for the song when Jonico music filed a copyright for the song.

The song shares some similarities to a song that appeared in the 1938 soviet film, Volga-Volga. The song was called Molodejnaya.


picture of happy children in field

What Does the Nursery Rhyme If You’re Happy and You Know It Mean?

The song has no deeper meaning other than the direct meaning of the words. Because the author is unknown, it’s impossible to tell what they had in mind when composing the song.

That hasn’t stopped the song from being one of the most popular songs in nursery schools. It helps children learn to coordinate different actions with singing and encourages them to stay happy.

What’s to Clap?

Clapping one’s hands is repeatedly striking your hands against each other to produce a sound. It’s often used as a way of giving applause.

What Does Happy Mean?

Being happy means being in a cheerful, contented, or joyful mood.

What’s to Stomp Your Feet?

To stomp your feet means putting your feet on the ground fast to produce a sound. Although commonly associated with anger, in the song’s context, it shows happiness.

What’s The Difference Between Stamp And Stomp?

The two words have the same meaning. However, stomp is used often when feet movement is more intense or violent. We can use the two interchangeably to refer to the rapid dropping of feet on the ground.

What Does Snap Your Fingers Mean?

Snapping your finger is touching the last part of your middle finger with your thumb and then abruptly releasing it, producing a snapping sound when it hits your palm.

Most people snap their fingers to get someone’s attention or signify an aha moment.


Is If You’re Happy and You Know It also a Drinking Song?

There are mentions of the song being a drinking song. But who’s to say how someone can use a piece once it’s composed?

The song could have become a drinking song because people made parodies signifying drinking situations.

Is If You’re Happy and You Know It the same as Molodejnaya?

The Molodejnaya song sounds like the If You’re Happy and You Know It song. For better comparison, here is a link to the YouTube link.

Since they sound the same, it has led to some people thinking they are the same. However, they aren’t. Molodejnaya isn’t a soviet-era version of the Happy song as some people would want to believe.

While the Happy song has its origins mainly in the USA, Molodejnaya has its roots in the former Soviet Union.

Although they share the same melody, they aren’t synonymous. Neither did the late 1930s song inspire the writing of the Happy song.

The melody might have inspired that of the Happy song. But we have no way of proving that.

The melody could have been adopted for The Happy Song since it made this song easier to sing than other melodies.

Is If You’re Happy and You Know It a Gospel Song?

The song is famous in bible schools and Sunday schools. Besides, you’ll find it in many Christian hymn books.

However, that doesn’t make it a gospel song in the strictest sense. It doesn’t contain any biblical stories or lessons.

You’ll also encounter it in Sunday schools since the song is about being happy and makes kids so glad to sing.

Is If You’re Happy and You Know It in the Public Domain?

Yes, The Happy Song is a public-domain song. This means that no one has the copyright to it and that if you want to use the song in your work, you can.

 (Disclaimer: You need to do more research into the laws in your jurisdiction/country to confirm you have the right to use this song)

Anything published before 1925 is in the public domain. But the Happy Song is a late 1950s creation. That raises some confusion over who owns the copyrights for the song.

It could be that since the song has no original known author or singer to claim the copyrights, it is considered in the public domain. Some people have come out to say they won the rights to the song.

Joe Raposo is one of the people that have laid claim to the song’s copyrights. However, he only obtained these copyrights in 1971. Before he filed this copyright claim, the song had been around for a long time.

The traditional parts of the lyrics aren’t copyrighted, so you can use them with freedom. However, different people’s renditions are out of bounds– for example, if you made a CD of you singing If You’re Happy and You Know it, your version is not public domain, and I cannot resell it.

Can You Sing If You’re Happy and You Know it In Sign Language?

Yes, you can! The following is a great resource video from YouTube that can teach you how to sign the Happy Song.


The following is a selection of Lesson Plans. You need to click on the images to go to the websites to learn more and download the resources.


What’s the Time Signature of the Happy Song?

The Happy Song is typically played in a 4/4-time signature. 4/4 is a simple structure that makes it easy for most experienced and non-experienced musicians to have fun with this song.


You can play The Happy Song on most instruments. The following are some instructional videos from YouTube that you can follow!


Samantha Bellerose has a Bachelor of Education as well as a Diploma in Performing Arts. She is a mom to four children and is passionate about education and learning. Samantha created Nursery Rhyme Central as the go to place for parents, teachers and carers about all things to do with Nursery Rhymes. She is also the Main Author and creator for websites Dance Parent 101 and Move Dance Learn, where she shares her knowledge and expertise for dance and learning through movement.

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