Friday, July 29, 2011

She Didn't Graduate High School. She Graduated FROM High School.

When people make grammatical mistakes when interacting with me, it doesn't bother me at all. It happens all the time in conversation. Even I, with my high-and-mighty Ph.D. in English from Duke University, feel free to add salt and pepper to my conversation. No big deal.

But when the whole culture, the whole nation starts making a certain mistake, that's serious business. it really gets on my nerves, and I want to take the gloves off.

A couple years ago I started hearing this phrase, "He graduated high school." Or "She graduated college."


Where the hell did this grammatically incorrect usage come from? Television?

But also, why did people pick up on it? Why suddenly go with an incorrect usage that makes no sense and doesn't sound right? Is it really because people are lazy - they don't have to say "from"? Or maybe they're insecure - they think that if others are saying it, they must be smarter.

It's grammatically incorrect to say, "She graduated high school."

A teenager can't graduate a high school. When "graduate" is used as a verb, it means
  1. To be granted an academic degree or diploma. "He graduated in 2002."
  2. To change gradually or by degrees. To advance to a new level of skill, achievement, or activity. "After a summer of diving instruction, they had all graduated to back flips."
  3. To grant an academic degree or diploma to: "The teachers hope to graduate her this spring."
  4. To arrange or divide into categories, steps, or grades. To divide into marked intervals, especially for use in measurement.
A student can't graduate an institution, such as a high school or college. A student can't grant a degree to a high school. A student can't divide a high school into smaller segments. A high school can graduate its students, however.

A student CAN graduate FROM a high school. And this is how 100% of English-speaking people used to say it until a few years ago.

If you've used the phrase, "graduate high school," I understand. Everyone is saying it, so why question it.

But now that I've explained it, you understand that it's grammatically incorrect. I've clarified the issue. You know the difference. You know better. So stop saying it incorrectly. I don't expect you to correct other people, as I'm doing here, though that would be commendable.

But if you choose to persist in saying it incorrectly...well, you're illiterate.

My other grammatical hot-button...

Post by Dennis E. Coates, Ph.D., Copyright 2011. Building Personal Strength . (Permission to us image purchased from

1 comment:

Vivid said...

This reminds me of two of my pet hates: "I wrote her " (you took a pen and wrote 'h-e-r' on a page, did you?) and "I saw him Tuesday" (in what way was he Tuesday-like?) It's good to know that someone else has noticed the importance of not dropping pronouns, so thanks for this post! :-)