May 20, 2013

Grammar Hammer: Stop! Graduation Time!

Spring has finally sprung, and with that, a flurry of flowers (and weeds) adorns my yard, and a pile of graduation announcements arrive in my mailbox (of both the virtual and actual variety).

When someone says, “My son just graduated college,” does your core grammatical nerve start to twitch? Dust off your cap and gown and let’s take a quick look and the correct way to discuss the graduates and what they actually did when they crossed the stage at commencement.

Grammatically speaking, the correct usage is to say, “My son just graduated from college.” Why? Because the verb “to graduate” is acting as an intransitive verb. Remember, intransitive verbs do not take objects. Transitive verbs take objects (either direct or indirect).

Transitive verb “to break” – He broke the glass.

Intransitive verb “to break” – When I see those commercials on TV with all the sad puppies and kitties who need homes, my heart breaks.

Consider this – by saying “He just graduated college,” it’s the same as saying “I slept my bed.” You need a prepositional phrase there to clarify exactly what you were doing. “I slept in my bed.”

Now, once again, we’re in the grammatical minefield of common usage starting to rub out the rules of grammar. “My son just graduated college,” is pretty firmly in today’s vernacular. No one is going to say, “The college my son attended has just graduated him.” That sounds archaic, but is grammatically correct. That’s also what’s actually happening when Junior parades across the stage, shakes the dean’s hand, picks up his degree, turns, smiles and waves at his proud parents, who are cheering and taking pictures, and then saunters off the stage to join his classmates and throw his cap in the air.

So remember, the school is the one doing the graduating. Students are graduated from a school.

Congratulations to the class of 2013!

Have a grammar rule you’d like me to explore? Drop me a line at catherine.spicer@prnewswire.com.

Author Catherine Spicer is a manager of customer content services at PR Newswire.

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