I'm from India and the phrase Pass Out is widely used here to imply graduation. Googling as well as asking teachers keeps giving me mixed opinions.

So, is this usage actually correct?

  • 3
    I've never heard this usage, but Josh's answer shows it has some currency, at least in BrE military contexts. However, if the usage were restricted to India (or is in some contexts restricted to India), that wouldn't mean it was incorrect. It would simply mean that it's part of the variety of English used in India.
    – rjpond
    Sep 17, 2017 at 10:36
  • 1
    Note that you should be careful about using this phrase if you go to America as "passing out" is used to describe losing conciousness after drinking too much.
    – EL_DON
    Sep 17, 2017 at 14:35
  • 1
    In the UK it can also mean fainting whatever the circumstances. Sep 17, 2017 at 15:26
  • 1
    Also intriguing: In idiomatic U.S. English, pass on can mean to transfer (in the sense of pass along), or it can mean to politely refuse, or it can mean to die.
    – Sven Yargs
    Sep 17, 2017 at 18:00
  • 2
    ELU expects research results to be posted with questions, even (or especially) when the results are/seem contradictory. Sep 17, 2017 at 21:22

1 Answer 1


To pass out is a BrE expression which means to leave college after graduating, especially in military contexts. The idiomatic expression may have been adopted in India from the BrE usage:

(uk) to leave a military college after successfully finishing the course:

  • The new officers passed out from Britannia Royal Naval College on Thursday 1 August.

(Cambridge Dictionary)

To pass out:

  • (INTRANSITIVE) (BRITISH) to officially complete a course at a military or a police college.

(MacMillanta Dictionary)

To pass out:

When a police, army, navy, or air force cadet passes out, he or she completes his or her training.[British]

  • He passed out in November 1924 and was posted to No 24 Squadron.

(Collins Dictionary)

Also, as suggested from the following extract from Quora:

  • The Indian education system, has always followed British English mainly because of the influence of British colonization in India before independence.

  • Pass out in British English means Graduate. However in America, the term is commonly used to denote fainting; usually under the influence of alcohol. Grammatically and historically there is nothing wrong with using the term.

And from Ten surprising expressions in Indian English

'I passed out of college'

  • When someone passes out, your first response may be to loosen their collar and get a cold towel. Fear not, in India, passing out has little to do with fainting or falling unconscious. It actually links to number one on the list. 'I passed out' from this college or that university is the Indian-English way of saying 'I graduated'.
  • 6
    I don't think this answer sufficiently emphasises that in British English this is restricted to military college. I don't believe I've ever heard it for any other kind of institution.
    – Colin Fine
    Sep 17, 2017 at 10:14
  • 2
    @ColinFine - the military BrE usage is clearly stated in the dictionary definition I posted as the first source. I think it is very likely that the expression moved out from the military context when used in India.
    – user66974
    Sep 17, 2017 at 10:16
  • 1
    the Cambridge quote says it, but the Quora one does not mention it (and I think is misleading for that reason). So I thought it was important to make the point. explicitly.
    – Colin Fine
    Sep 17, 2017 at 10:19
  • 4
    It's also worth noting that pass out as "faint" is the primary meaning in British English, and the "graduation" sense is secondary by a long way. I have no idea how the two senses compare in Indian English.
    – Andrew Leach
    Sep 19, 2017 at 11:45
  • 4
    May I clarify @Josh that if somebody faints we say they fainted or became unconscious in Indian English. 'Pass out' is not typically used to refer to fainting, so the 'graduation' meaning is certainly more common, as in "the whole family attended his college passing-out ceremony." Nor is it restricted to a military college and is even used to refer to high school graduation: "100 students have passed out from this school with excellent marks this year." A notorious error sometimes seen is to use pass away as in "we are proud to announce that all our students passed away this year." Sep 20, 2017 at 14:09

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.