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I am just wondering how I would say "I graduated from BLANK university" in French. Google translate says "je suis diplômé de..." but I think that translates to I have my diploma from. The word for graduate in French is graduel/graduelle. Why wouldn't we use that word or is Google translate incorrect?

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The correct translation is “Je suis diplômé de l'université …”. Yes, that means the place you got your diploma from, but that's what “graduated from” means.

If you want to specify exactly what diploma you had, use a noun, like in English. If you want to specify the action, rather than the state, then you also need to use a noun in French: French doesn't have a verb that corresponds to “graduate” exactly.

Note that in France, we don't have the strongly marked concept of undergraduate vs graduate. We have a wide array of diplomas that require different lengths of post-secondary studies. So it's more common in French to specify which degree. Conversely, if you have a university diploma, then which diploma is important, but which university isn't, so typically, to explain your curriculum succinctly, you'd mention the diploma, but not the university.

It's different if you studied at a grande école. These have a fixed-length cursus and an old boys' network, so in that case you would mention the place but not the academic level.

I have a B.S. in mathematics from X University.
J'ai une licence de mathématiques délivrée par l'université X.   (Or: … de l'université X.)

I graduated at X University with a B.S. in mathematics in 2000.
J'ai obtenu une licence de mathématiques à l'université X en 2000.

I graduated from {famous university}.
J'ai fait {école réputée}.

I graduated from {famous university} in 2000.
Je suis sorti de {école réputée} en 2000.

The adjective graduel means “gradual”, as in something that happens step by step rather than all at once. No cognate of this adjective is used to refer to degrees in French.

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The adjective graduel is the translation of gradual. You never use it for people but for a process. eg. L'augmentation graduelle de température means the gradual temperature increase.

We also have the adjective gradué which means graduated but that nowadays only apply to measurement instruments that have marks written on them. Une échelle graduée (a graduated scale).

It used to apply to students or military people when they got a new grade but this usage is lost:

TLFi Graduer > B. − Spéc. Élever quelqu'un à un grade militaire ou universitaire. Les soldats graduèrent leur commandant : à Lodi ils le firent caporal, à Castiglione sergent (Chateaubr., Mém., t. 2, 1848, p. 330). Être membre de l'université et gradué par l'une de ses facultés (Encyclop. éduc., 1960, p. 65).
Emploi subst. du part. passé. Donner des bénéfices vacants à des gradués d'université (Encyclop. éduc., 1960, p. 125).

When referring to the army (or police), we use gradé for the same, but this adjective or noun is not used for students.

Another answer suggested licencié. While technically it can mean owning a licence (roughly equivalent to a bachelor degree, originally meaning having a right to teach, i.e. a "license to teach"), beware that saying :

Je suis licencié de l'Université Blank.

might be understood: "I'm being laid off from Blank University (as an employee)"

To remove the ambiguity, you would tell which kind of licence this is:

Je suis licencié ès lettres.

As graduated doesn't necessarily mean having a bachelor degree, the right translation is, as Google translate suggested:

Je suis diplômé de l'université Blank.

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The word for "graduate" in French is not "graduel" but "licencié" for a man and "licenciée" for a woman.

(TLFi) B. ENSEIGN. SUPÉRIEUR. Celui, celle qui possède le diplôme de licence. Licencié d'une faculté; licencié en droit. -

  • Il faudra se représenter (...) la licenciée ès lettres, en tablier bleu de service.
  • En emploi adj. En juillet 1937, j'échouai à mon second examen de licence. (...) je ne fus complètement licencié qu'en 1939.

Cependant, il ne faudrait pas dire « je suis licencié de/par l'université X », un français risque de comprendre « j'étais employé par l'université X, puis elle m'a fait partir », même si la formulation correcte serait « j'ai été licencié par l'université X ». Voir les commentaires pour d'autres détails (user Gilles).

Why words are not used the way that seems so natural to you is simply explained by the fact that what some "put" or "see" into a word or concept is never what others "put" or "see" into it, specially as they belong to the opposite sides of a language divide. In this particular case one might say that the English saw in the concept of university studies a ladder the steps of which are the marks of certain levels of achievement and the French, even if they do see that into it, had rather resort to something that caracterises that activity in an other vein, equally important in defining this activity, and that is the necessity of an authority that sanctions the achievements at the different levels, and attributes to the student certain corresponding privileges, certain rights, the first being the "licence", the right to apply for certain jobs and for higher education.

For "I graduated from BLANK university" you would say "J'ai obtenu une licence de l'université de BLANK", "Jai obtenu ma licence de l'université de BLANK". The first possibilité could be used more often (ngram).

  • Presenting “licencié” as a translation for “graduate” is very misleading. While it's possible to craft a sentence where it's an appropriate translation, most of the time, “licencié” is the past participle of “licencier” which means firing someone from a job. – Gilles Mar 31 at 10:42
  • @Gilles Je ne comprends pas, au lien suivant le nom « licencié » est défini comme signifiant « Personne titulaire d'une licence (universitaire ou sportive). Traduction anglais : (université) graduate » (internaute). J'ai même trouvé le terme « licencié ès lettres ».( ès lettres) – LPH Mar 31 at 11:27
  • Oui (voir exemple donné par jilliagre), mais c'est marginal. Si tu dis « je suis licencié de/par l'université X », un français risque de comprendre « j'étais employé par l'université X, puis elle m'a fait partir », même si la formulation correcte serait « j'ai été licencié par l'université X ». Un français n'utiliserait pas naturellement le verbe, et le nom est rare sauf quand on donne la discipline mais pas l'université dans une liste de diplômes (« il est licencié de mathématiques et docteur en physique » = « il a une license de mathématiques et un doctorat en physique »). – Gilles Mar 31 at 13:12

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