"" Writer's Wanderings: Graduate From or By or. . .?

Monday, June 12, 2017

Graduate From or By or. . .?

'Tis the season of graduation. Preschool, kindergarten, middle school, high school, college and the list goes on. A question was posed to me by a friend as to the correct usage of the verb graduate. She wondered if "graduated high school" was the correct way to explain this passage in life. Off the top of my head I said no but I got to thinking that maybe I had it wrong. Once I dug into the search engines of the internet I realized it is quite a common question.

Needless to say the English language evolves and we Americans especially seem to find new ways of saying things that are not necessarily grammatically correct. In school we were taught to diagram sentences. Most kids hated the exercise. I was weird. I loved it and the longer and more complicated the sentence the more fun I had. So I went back to my training to try to answer her question.

If you break down the sentence, She graduated high school, you have She as the subject, graduated as the verb and high school as the object of the verb. In my simple way of understanding, graduated would be an action verb therefore the object of the verb, high school (actually school as high would be an adjective), would be receiving the action. Huh? She is the one getting the diploma.

What is missing from the sentence is the preposition from. Insert the preposition and it makes sense that She is moving on from the high school. She is not giving a diploma to the high school. 

There are all sorts of more correct ways to describe this right of passage and if you get deeper into the dissection of the English language and start into transitive vs. intransitive verbs it can get a bit more complicated. In an era where so much is reduced to 140 characters for communication, I can only imagine what our language will look like in another fifty years.

If you would like to drive yourself a little crazier, here are a few links I found discussing the issue of "graduate vs. graduate from vs. graduated by."

Poetry and Contingency (this one has lots of charts and graphs)
Visual Thesaurus 
Grammar Girl (probably the easiest to understand)

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