An election is when people vote for a political party (e.g. the Republicans, Labour, the Conservatives etc...) that they want to run (to be in charge of) their country, region or city. The vocabulary in English for political elections is neither the easiest to understand or commonly used in everyday conversations. But when you do need to use it (when there is an election for example) it's important you understand the vocabulary used about the topic/subject.

To help you both learn and remember the English vocabulary used when talking about elections, I have created two online exercises. In this first part, you will learn by first reading a text and doing a quiz/test the English vocabulary which is used to describe what happens before an election happens.

When you have done this part of the exercise, do the second part of this exercise where you will learn the vocabulary in English when people vote and what happens after that.


Exercise:

Read the following conversation where Peter explains to his Spanish friend Juan the meaning of important vocabulary used to talk about political elections in English.

From the context, try to guess what the meaning of the words/phrases in bold are. Then do the quiz at the end to check if you are right.

Juan:'Are you going to vote in the election in two weeks?'

Peter:'Yes, I'm going to vote. Why do you ask?'

Juan:'It's the first election that has happened since I've lived in Britain. What happens in elections here?'

Peter:'Well, before the election all the different political parties each do a campaign. They do lots of events, meet voters in the street, pay for advertisements on the TV, radio etc...'

Juan:'They do campaigns to convince people to vote for them in the election?'

Peter:'Yeah. People from the different political parties also participate in debates normally on television before the election as well.'

Juan:'What are those?'

Peter:'A debate is where candidates from the different political parties appear together in front of the public and are asked questions and then criticise each other.'

Juan:'So, candidates is the name for the members of the political parties who want to serve in parliament or congress?'

Peter:'That's right. They are the people who are actually running for election, who people will vote for. The candidate who wins (gets the most votes) in the election, then gets a seat in parliament.'

Juan:'But some of the candidates in elections already have a seat in parliament, don't they?'

Peter:'Yes they do. If a political candidate currently has a seat in parliament, they are looking to be re-elected, to win their seat again. The other candidates who are competing against him or her obviously don't want that to happen.'

Juan:'How do the candidates know how well their campaigns are going before the election happens?'

Peter:'Before the the actual election happens, different organisations try to predict who will win or lose. They do this by asking a large number of voters who they intend to vote for. The is called a poll. And political parties use these polls to see how well or badly their campaign is going.'

Juan:'They do polls before elections in Spain as well. But what I don't understand is why there are two elections here this year. There's the election for the government in two weeks and then the election in November to decide if Britain stays or leaves the European Union?'

Peter:'But what is happening in November is not an election, it's a referendum.'

Juan:'What's the difference? People have to vote in both.'

Peter:'In an election, people vote for a political party to be in charge of the government or a council. In a referendum, people don't directly vote for a political party, but on an issue or proposal. Like should Britain be in the European Union or should guns be made illegal/banned in the country.'



Quiz:

Below is a definition/description of each of the words/phrases in bold from the above text. Now choose the word/phrase from the question's selection box which you believe answers each question. Only use one word/phrase once. Click on the "Check Answers" button at the bottom of the quiz to check your answers.

When the answer is correct, two icons will appear next to the question. The first is an Additional Information Icon "". Click on this for extra information on the word/phrase. The second is a Pronunciation Icon "". Click on this to listen to the pronunciation of the word/phrase and to do a pronunciation speaking test.


1. A position/place in a parliament is often called a
         

Seat:
(noun) In politics, a 'seat' means a position in parliament, congress or a council. In most countries, 'seats' are awarded to the political candidates who obtained the most votes during an election.

In English, when 'seat' is used with this meaning, it is normally followed by 'in' then the name of political institution it is in (e.g. the House of Commons, the Senate, the city council etc...).

For example:

'The Labour candidate won a seat in the House of Commons.'

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Seat:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
To check your pronunciation of this word/phrase, first click on the microphone icon () below. Then allow the browser to record your voice and then say the above word/phrase. Although this test is good, it sometimes does not recognise some of the words/phrases.

       

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2. The results of asking people who they are planning to vote for in an election, is called a
         

Poll:
(noun) Is also called an 'opinion poll'. This is the result of a survey where people are asked about their opinion on something (e.g. 'is the government doing a good job?') or on what their intentions are (e.g. which political party they are going to vote for in an election). In politics, 'polls' are often done to predict which political party will win an election, a particular seat in parliament (or congress in the US) or what issues are important.

Political parties use 'polls' to help them during their campaign before elections. From 'polls', they can decide what issues to talk about and what areas of the country they should focus on.

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Poll:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
To check your pronunciation of this word/phrase, first click on the microphone icon () below. Then allow the browser to record your voice and then say the above word/phrase. Although this test is good, it sometimes does not recognise some of the words/phrases.

       

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3. The people who are trying to win a seat in parliament in an election, are called the
         

Candidates:
(noun) This is the name for all the people who are trying to win a seat in parliament, congress or a council both before and during an election.

Most 'candidates' in elections come from political parties (e.g. the Republican Party, the Labour Party etc...). To say which political party a 'candidate' is representing, you say the name of the political party in front of the word 'candidate'.

For example:

'John Smith is the Conservative candidate for the North Leeds seat in parliament.'

In America, a 'candidate' can also be called a 'nominee'.

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Candidates:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
To check your pronunciation of this word/phrase, first click on the microphone icon () below. Then allow the browser to record your voice and then say the above word/phrase. Although this test is good, it sometimes does not recognise some of the words/phrases.

       

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4. When people vote to decide an issue/proposal (e.g. for a region to become independent), it is called a
         

Referendum:
(noun) This is when the people of a country are asked to decide what to do on a particular issue by voting. For most issues (e.g. to increase/decrease the level of tax, go to war etc...), it is politicians in parliament (or congress in the US) who decide what to do by voting. But if the issue is extremely important for the country, politicians sometimes let the people of the country make the final decision on what to do, by getting them to vote on the issue. This is called a 'referendum'.

An example of a 'referendum' is when the people of Scotland voted to decide whether they wanted their region to continue being a political part of the United Kingdom or to leave and be politically independent.

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Referendum:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
To check your pronunciation of this word/phrase, first click on the microphone icon () below. Then allow the browser to record your voice and then say the above word/phrase. Although this test is good, it sometimes does not recognise some of the words/phrases.

       

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5. When the candidate who is the current holder of a political position/seat wins it again in an election, they are
         

Re-elected:
(verb) The infinitive is 'to re-elect'. This is when the current/existing occupant of a political position or seat (e.g. a President, congressman, member of parliament (MP) etc...) wins their position or seat again in an election.

For example:

'Barack Obama has won the election and has been re-elected President of the United States.'

If a candidate who is not the current occupant of a political position or seat wins, we use 'elect' instead.

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Re-elected:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
To check your pronunciation of this word/phrase, first click on the microphone icon () below. Then allow the browser to record your voice and then say the above word/phrase. Although this test is good, it sometimes does not recognise some of the words/phrases.

       

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6. A different to say that a person is 'trying to win' a position/seat in a parliament, is
         

Running for:
(phrasal verb) The infinitive is 'to run for'. This is used in politics to say that a person is taking part in an election to win a political position or seat. It is normally followed by the name of the political institution (e.g. parliament, the House of Commons, the Senate, the city council etc...) a political candidate is wanting win a seat in. this phrasal verb can also be followed by 'president' .

For example:

'Sally Smith is running for the House of Commons.'

or

'Hillary Clinton is running for president.'

To 'run for' is sometimes followed by 'election' as well.

For example:

'Sally Smith is running for election.'

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Running for:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
To check your pronunciation of this word/phrase, first click on the microphone icon () below. Then allow the browser to record your voice and then say the above word/phrase. Although this test is good, it sometimes does not recognise some of the words/phrases.

       

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7. An event where candidates from different political parties come together and are asked questions in front of the public, is called a
         

Debate:
(noun) In politics, a 'debate' is when politicians or candidates from different political parties appear together in front of the public and are asked questions. They are asked questions about what their opinion is on something or what they would do about different issues. These 'debates' happen in the weeks or months before an election or referendum takes place.

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Debate:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
To check your pronunciation of this word/phrase, first click on the microphone icon () below. Then allow the browser to record your voice and then say the above word/phrase. Although this test is good, it sometimes does not recognise some of the words/phrases.

       

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8. All the activities which political parties do to get people to vote for them in the months before an election happens, is called their
         

Campaign:
(noun) Also called an 'electoral campaign'. In the months before an election takes place, the political parties who are contesting (taking part in) the election will begin to focus on trying to convince the public to vote for their party. This is what a 'campaign' is.

During a 'campaign', each political party will use a variety of different methods to try to persuade potential voters to vote for them. They will place ads on the TV, radio, internet and in newspapers. They will also organise rallies and political meetings, participate in debates and go out and meets members of the public.

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Campaign:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
To check your pronunciation of this word/phrase, first click on the microphone icon () below. Then allow the browser to record your voice and then say the above word/phrase. Although this test is good, it sometimes does not recognise some of the words/phrases.

       

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Now that you've done this exercise, do the second part of this exercise to learn the rest of the vocabulary in English used to talk about elections.



Practice

Now that you understand the new political vocabulary, practise it by creating your own sentences with the words/phrases you have learnt.