В новостях прочитал фразу:

В 2003 году он закончил МГИМО.


  • Предложение корректно?

  • Можно ли в нем заменить закончил на окончил?

  • Есть ли смысловые нюансы?


"закончил" is more common.

The sentence is rather correct – at least the word "закончил" is often used like this, so it wouldn't sound any "wrong" for 99 percent of native speakers.

But "окончил" is an even more appropriate verb here as it is mostly used referring to study and would probably sound weird, yet immediately understandable, if used elsewhere.

"окончил школу" – perfect

"закончил школу" – still OK

"закончил дела" – OK

"окончил дела" – weird

  • at lest no кончил. That would make a double entrende :P
    – Swift
    Apr 22 '17 at 16:37

I can help (russian myself). Correct form is оканчивать, but even russians often don't see the difference and say заканчивать. Only purists pay attention to it.

From russian-russian dictionary:

оканчивать 1. Приводить к концу; завершать, заканчивать. 2. Завершать обучение в каком-либо учебном заведении или на курсе, в классе.

заканчивать Доводить до конца; оканчивать, завершать.

  • The dictionary definition seems to contradict your previous point, namely, according to the dictionary, заканчивать and оканчивать are synonyms
    – Aleks G
    Nov 19 '14 at 1:00
  • National Russian corpus results: заканчивать школу - 143 entries, оканчивать школу - 289 entries.
    – Artemix
    Nov 19 '14 at 10:55
  • Funny, but in russian web you can find the same disscussons as we see here pishu-pravilno.livejournal.com/280671.html
    – Nastya
    Nov 19 '14 at 16:10
  • @Aleks G depends which dictionary... the "new order" ones claim some rather weird things that do not match older norms.
    – Swift
    Apr 22 '17 at 16:40

I would add that "окончил университет" is perceived as a bit more formal and/or archaic whereas "закончил" is slowly but surely drifting from colloquial to neutral general usage. In fact, it may well have already completed the journey.

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