Graduated versus Graduated From

How can you make your alma mater proud?

Mignon Fogarty
3-minute read
Episode #107


When you say that someone graduated from a specific college you are using the intransitive form of "to graduate" because the verb has no object. Let's say Squiggly got a degree from Burrow College. Although it's a bit archaic, the formal way to say this using the intransitive form of the verb "to graduate" is to say, "Squiggly was graduated from Burrow." The more modern way to say it and still be correct is "Squiggly graduated from Burrow." You need the "from." Squiggly graduated FROM Burrow. The shortest form of this sentence would be "Squiggly graduated." If you think about it that way, you can see that "from Burrow" isn't an object, it's just a prepositional phrase that tells you more about where Squiggly graduated from.

The thing is, when you say, "Squiggly graduated Burrow," you've turned "to graduate" into a transitive verb. By definition, the act of graduating is something a school does to a student, not something a student does to a school. Schools graduate students. You could say that Burrow graduated 600 students this year. However, if you say, “Squiggly graduated Burrow,” you're making Squiggly the subject and Burrow the object and saying that Squiggly did something to the college. It's possible Squiggly did many things to the college during his tenure there. He may have damaged the college, delighted the college, or desecrated the college--but he didn't graduate the college.

I don't know why so many people have taken to dropping the "from" and are going around saying they graduated college, but it really is wrong. Do your alma mater a favor and make your English instructors proud. Tell people you graduated from college or high school.

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*That's a grammar joke. I tried to write the most incorrect sentence possible to show that I was depressed.


The American Heritage Dictionary entry on “graduate”
Patricia O'Connor, author of Woe Is I on “graduate”
Paul Brians, author of Common Errors in English Usage, on “graduate”


About the Author

Mignon Fogarty

Mignon Fogarty is the founder of Quick and Dirty Tips and the author of seven books on language, including the New York Times bestseller "Grammar Girl's Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing." She is an inductee in the Podcasting Hall of Fame, and the show is a five-time winner of Best Education Podcast in the Podcast Awards. She has appeared as a guest expert on the Oprah Winfrey Show and the Today Show.

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