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Transitive verb: A verb accompanied by a direct object. –

It’s that time of year when graduation announcements appear in the mailbox.

The ceremonies are different now, and by that I mean compared to 50 years ago when members of the Class of 1965 walked across the stage to receive their diplomas from the president of the school board.

For the most part, it was a happy, but reserved occasion, especially compared to today’s controlled pandemonium.  Graduates moved their tassels from right to left, negotiated the steps to the auditorium floor and took their seats, awaiting the mandatory hugs and expressions of congratulations from family and friends after the ceremony ended.

Now, these five decades later, I can say that the day I graduated from high school was one of the watershed days of my young life, which is why some of today’s media descriptions of similar events puzzle me.

Here’s an example from an alumni newsletter:

“John Graham, of Boca Raton, Fla., graduated high school in 1976 and then went on to take his master’s degree in public policy at Princeton.”

Seeing “graduated high school” instead of “graduated from high school” is the grammatical equivalent to the physical act of running your fingernails down a blackboard.

Did someone say, what’s a blackboard? That’s a topic for another day. Since blackboards are no longer in use, what is an apt comparison?

But I digress.

As my English teacher, Mrs. Nankivel, would say, you can’t have a forward pass without a receiver.  “The quarterback threw the pass,” she said, pointing out that the verb “threw” was a transitive verb. It needed a receiver. I was always impressed by her use of sports analogies. However, the verb “graduate” is not a transitive verb when you say John graduated college because that says John did that act to the college. John may criticize the college, or paint the college dorm, but he can’t graduate the college.

Do I hear someone saying, who cares?

Only those who care about our language and wish to preserve it.

Make it, “He graduated ‘from’ high school.”

May 13, 2015