Graduating FROM High School and College

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A reader asks,

When did it become acceptable to drop the preposition after the verb graduate, as in “I graduated high school in 2000”?

This nonstandard usage has become common in colloquial speech, but it is still not acceptable in formal English.

The American dictionary Merriam-Webster includes an example from ESPN that suggests that dropping the from is acceptable:

… smiling like dudes who’ve just graduated college or just reached the legal drinking age … — Jeff Bradley, ESPN, 23 Aug. 1999.

However, the American style guide published by the Associated Press rejects this usage:

Graduate [verb] is correctly used in the active voice: She graduated from the university.

It is correct, but unnecessary, to use the passive voice: He was graduated from the university.

Do not, however, drop from: John Adams graduated from Harvard. Not: John Adams graduated Harvard.

Other respected American commenters on usage also reject the nonstandard form:

You can’t “graduate college” anymore than you can “go college” or “arrive college.” In this instance, the verb “to graduate” is acting as an intransitive verb, and intransitive verbs cannot take on an object.—dmatriccino, Writer’s Digest.

If you go around saying you graduated college, you sound illiterate.—Grammar Girl.

In certain dialects (notably that of New York City), it is common to say, “He is going to graduate high school in June” rather than the more standard “graduate from.” When writing for a national or international audience, use the “from.”—Paul Brians, Common Errors in English Usage.

In a Web search, the nonstandard form outstrips the standard form, but in the Ngram database of printed books, “graduated from” prevails.

In an academic context, schools graduate students, but students graduate from schools.

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6 thoughts on “Graduating FROM High School and College”

  1. Thank you for this, Maeve! I especially like the examples from the respected commenters. (A big “boo!” to Merriam-Webster)

    Cliff Douglas, I like your comment, as well.

  2. Here we go with Mariam Webster again (I see that all the time so it must be acceptable.) Alternatively Marion Webster, Mary Ann Webster, Mary and Webster. All forms are in current use.

  3. I admit, this is a peeve of mine. It is highly irritating to my ears when people say they “graduated college” or whatever. My mother was a stickler for the “was graduated from” construction, and I’m relieved to know one needn’t use that construction anymore. It always sounded cumbersome, needlessly wordy and snooty to me.

  4. Saying “graduate high school” makes you sound like one of those sad cases who finished 12 years of school, but never left. The guys hanging around the schoolyard a year later, maybe hoping to impress some 15 year old. Sad.
    Most people want to graduate from high school or from college, and move on.
    Interesting that a sports network is quoted as a source of what is acceptable grammar. Isn’t that a bit out of their field?

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