Q: I have a beef about the verb “graduate.” For the first 30 years of my life, I always heard “graduate” used with the preposition “from,” never without it. For the last 40 years, I’ve heard the word used more and more without the preposition. This seems like a barbarism to me. What’s your take on it?
A: Traditionally, it’s the school that graduates the student, not the other way around.
In its original meaning, to “graduate” was to confer a degree on someone, so it was an action by the school. The student himself, on the other hand, “was graduated” by the school.
But for the last 200 years (since the early 1800s), it’s also been standard practice to say the student “graduated,” or that he “graduated from” the school. The usage you object to (“she graduated college” instead of “she graduated from college”) dates from the mid-20th century. Here are examples:
STANDARD: “Princeton graduated him in 1986.”
STANDARD: “He was graduated from college in 1986.”
STANDARD: “He graduated from Georgia Tech in 1986.”
NONSTANDARD: “He graduated Stanford in 1986.”