Skip to main content

Can You "Graduate College"? (Grammar Lesson)

Q: I love the English language and hope to master it some day, but I need help with the word "graduate." I hear people say (and see them write) "I graduated high school." This doesn't sound right to me. Would it be more appropriate to say "I graduated from high school"?–Brent M.

A: 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.

Now I know what you're thinking: Uh oh, he's breaking out words like intransitive and object, and when I hear words like that my brain explodes. Not to worry, my friend. Let's deconstruct this in a way that will keep your brain intact.

To say "I graduated" is akin to saying "I slept." Both are perfectly sound (albeit short) sentences using intransitive verbs. So to say "I graduated college" would be akin to saying "I slept my bed"—and hearing that would make my brain explode. If you want to clarify where you slept, you need a prepositional phrase: "I slept in my bed." Likewise, your graduation statement also needs a prepositional phrase: "I graduated from college."

Another way to think about it is to swap out the noun "college" with anther noun, like "Harvard." You wouldn't say, "I graduated Harvard" would you? (If you did, you may showcase the fact that you didn't actually graduate from Harvard.)

Just because many people are using it incorrectly doesn't mean you should. Be a leader and set others straight.

Want more?

Image placeholder title
  • Pick up your copy of the Beginning Writer's Answer Book. For more details about the book, click here.
  • Follow the WD Editors on Twitter: @writersdigest@BrianKlems@JaneFriedman @robertleebrewer @JessicaStrawser @ChuckSambuchino
  • Become a fan at our Facebook page
From Our Readers

What Book Ended in a Way That You Didn’t Expect but Was Perfect Anyway?: From Our Readers (Comment for a Chance at Publication)

This post announces our latest From Our Readers question: What book ended in a way that you didn’t expect but was perfect anyway? Comment for a chance at publication in a future issue of Writer's Digest.

From Script

A Deep Emotional Drive To Tell Stories (From Script)

In this week’s round up brought to us by Script magazine, read interviews with filmmakers Wendey Stanzler and Maria Judice. Plus a one-on-one interview with Austin Film Festival’s executive director Barbara Morgan.

Paul Tremblay: On Starting With the Summary

Paul Tremblay: On Starting With the Summary

Award-winning author Paul Tremblay discusses how a school-wide assembly inspired his new horror novel, The Pallbearers Club.

writer's digest wd presents

WD Presents: An Interview with Steven Rowley and Jessica Strawser, 5 WDU Courses, and More!

This week, we're excited to announce our interview with Steven Rowley and Jessica Strawser, 5 WDU courses, and more!

Writer's Digest Best Everything Agent Websites for Writers 2022

Writer's Digest Best Everything Agent Websites for Writers 2022

Here are the top websites by and about agents as identified in the 24th Annual 101 Best Websites from the May/June 2022 issue of Writer's Digest.

Ashley Poston: On Love, Death, and Books

Ashley Poston: On Love, Death, and Books

Author Ashley Poston discusses how she combined her love of ghost stories, romance, and books into her new romance novel, The Dead Romantics.

Choosing Which Movements To Put in Your Fight Scene (FightWrite™)

Choosing Which Movements To Put in Your Fight Scene (FightWrite™)

Trained fighter and author Carla Hoch discusses how much of a fight's details to actually put into a story, and how even with fight scenes sometimes less is more.

5 Research Tips for Writing Historical Fiction, by Piper Huguley

5 Research Tips for Writing Historical Fiction

Author Piper Huguley shares her five research tips for writing historical fiction that readers love and writers love as well.

Announcing 40 More Plot Twist Prompts for Writers!

Announcing 40 More Plot Twist Prompts for Writers!

Learn more about 40 Plot Twist Prompts for Writers, Volume 2: ALL NEW Writing Ideas for Taking Your Stories in New Directions, by Writer's Digest Senior Editor Robert Lee Brewer. Discover fun and interesting ways to move your stories from beginning to end.