English Lessons


Words Related to Democratic Elections

Fair elections are an essential part of a working democracy. It's important to know the English words relating to elections when you read or hear the English-language news about an election. The recent US presidential election has been in the media a lot this month, and you may have heard many of the following words in news reports.


The verb "to vote" means "to choose" the person you are voting for: 


We try really hard to persuade people that we're right, and then people vote.

Captions 47-49, Barack Obama: on Trump presidential victory

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There is also the noun "vote," and a  synonym for a vote is a ballot. A ballot is also the actual paper that you use to write your vote on.


The place you go to vote is called a "poll":


When it comes to election day, the public go to the polls to vote for one presidential ticket.

Caption 66, US Elections How do they work?

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But a "poll" is also a survey that asks people who they intend to vote for:


That supports Jeb Bush, who has been struggling in some polls.

Caption 19, ABC News: The Broncos Win Super Bowl 50

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The person who is running for political office is a candidate:


So the candidate with the most votes wins.

Caption 48, US Elections: How do they work?

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Candidates often confront each other before the election in a debate:


Remember, he was just on the stage with Joe Biden at that debate.

Caption 19, ABC News: President Trump and first lady test positive for COVID-19

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If somebody has "been elected," it means that they got the most votes and won the election:


Senators, like members of the House of Representatives, are also elected to their seats by the public.

Captions 42-43, US Elections: How do they work?

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When a candidate for US President has won the election in November, he does not take office until the 20th of January the following year. In the two and a half months before he takes office, he is called the "President-elect." After the 20th of January, he is called the "President" and the person who left office is called the "former President."


So I have instructed my team to follow the example that President Bush's team set eight years ago and work as hard as we can to make sure that this is a successful transition for the President-elect.

Captions 25-28, Barack Obama: on Trump presidential victory

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Further Learning
Go to Yabla English and watch the US Elections: How do they work? video for a detailed description of the US national elections process.

Present perfect o Simple past?

Spesso, chi studia l'inglese tende a confondere il Present perfect e il Simple past, due tempi verbali che in italiano corrispondono perlopiù al passato prossimo dell'indicativo. È fondamentale scegliere il tempo verbale corretto a seconda del tipo di contesto in cui una frase è inserita.


Per prima cosa, vediamo come si costruiscono questi tempi verbali. Il present perfect si compone di due parti: l'ausiliare to have (avere) coniugato al presente, più il participio passato del verbo principale. Il participio passato di un verbo regolare si forma aggiungendo "ed" alla forma base del verbo, ad esempio played (giocato), arrived (arrivato), worked (lavorato). Molti verbi formano il participio passato in modo irregolare, ad esempio to be diventa been (essere, stato), to go diventa gone (andare, andato), to make diventa made (fare, fatto).


Per la costruzione del simple past, vale la stessa regola del suffisso "ed" aggiunto alla forma base del verbo. Anche al simple past alcuni verbi sono irregolari, come ad esempio to give (dare) che diventa gave. L'ausiliare per formare frasi negative e interrogative con il simple past è "did".


Occupiamoci adesso della differenza principale tra questi due tempi verbali. Il present perfect si usa quando un'azione o una situazione non è ancora terminata, quando è ancora in corso. Ecco un esempio:


She has lived an extraordinary life of public service.

Ha vissuto una straordinaria vita nel servizio pubblico.

Caption 36, Barack Obama - On Trump Presidential Victory

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In questa frase, Barack Obama ha usato il present perfect per dire che Hilary Clinton è ancora impegnata nel servizio pubblico e lo sarà anche in futuro.  


And I lived on a boat for three and a half years.

E ho vissuto su una barca per tre anni e mezzo.

Caption 8, Great Pacific Garbage Patch - Let's Work for Solutions

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Qui, invece, l'uso del simple past indica che la persona che parla non vive più sulla barca. Se il soggetto avesse usato "have lived" ora noi sapremmo che questa persona vive ancora sulla barca. Pertanto il simple past si usa per parlare di azioni concluse che si sono svolte nel passato.


Un modo per capire quale tempo verbale usare è la presenza nella frase di un riferimento temporale, come yesterday (ieri), ago (fa), last month (lo scorso mese) e since (da), ever e never (mai).


We made macaroni necklaces yesterday.

Abbiamo fatto le collanine di maccheroni ieri.

Caption 24, Jimmy Kimmel’s Quarantine Minilogue - Home with Kids, Trump, Tom Brady & St. Patrick’s Day

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They were the most persistent tigers I've ever seen.

Erano le tigri più perseveranti che avessi mai visto.

Caption 30, The Marx Brothers - Capt. Spaulding's African Adventures

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Nell'ultimo esempio, quello che il Capitano Spaulding vuole dire è "in tutta la mia vita". Dal momento che è ancora in vita e considerato che in futuro potrebbe vedere delle tigri ancora più perseveranti, il present perfect è il tempo verbalo più corretto.


Per parlare di azioni avvenute poco fa o di un’azione che si è verificata prima del solito, prima che ce lo si aspettasse o, più semplicemente, presto, usiamo il present perfect e gli avverbi just (appena), already (già, nelle frasi affermative) e yet (già, nelle negative e interrogative).


You've just walked 'round there, sorted it out.

Sei appena andata là, hai sistemato tutto.

Caption 13, Our School Series 1 - Episode 1 - Part 2

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Guardiamo adesso questo esempio:


There's no doubt that this project has made a huge difference.

Non c'è dubbio che questo progetto abbia fatto una differenza enorme.

Caption 36, WWF: Making a Difference - Rhino Conservation

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Se al posto di "has made" ci fosse "made", potremmo senza alcun dubbio affermare che il progetto si è concluso. Al contrario, con il present perfect sappiamo che questo progetto è, per l'appunto, ancora in corso.  


In sintesi, è fondamentale ricordare che la differenza prinipale tra i due tempi verbali sta nel fatto che con il present perfect il periodo di tempo in cui si è svolta l'azione non è ancora concluso oppure non è specificato. Con il simple past il periodo di tempo in cui si è svolta l'azione è completamente concluso, oppure è sempre specificato o sottinteso. 


Ti senti pronto per qualche esercizio? Completa la frase con il tempo verbale corretto.


1. I ____ just ____ my lunch. (to finish)

2. I ____ to the cinema several times in the last few weeks. (to go)

3. Last year, they ____ a new house by the sea. (to buy)

4. Oil ____ recently ____ in price. (to increase)

5. The bad weather ____ our holiday last month. (to ruin)

6. Elisa ____ here since 2002. (to live)

7. The government ____ any action yet. (not/to take)

8. The alarm ____ when I ____. (to stop; to switch off)

9. Jane ____ already ____ the laundry. (to do)

10. Yesterday, I ____ the keys in my purse. (to find)

11. He ____ an hour ago. (to get up)

12. I ___ never ___ a test. (to fail)



Variations of "To Run"

The Oxford English dictionary defines "to run" as to "move at a speed faster than a walk, never having both or all the feet on the ground at the same time." There are a lot of other meanings and idiomatic uses of "to run," however, which are commonly used and with which you should make yourself familiar. 


We will have young people to run the island.

Caption 48, Bishop Stanley - Island Cherries

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Here "to run" means "to operate," in the sense of "to run a business." 


No, I'm not going to run for president.

Caption 46, Entertainment Weekly - The Obamas Answer Kids' Adorable Questions

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If you "run" for a political position, it means you are campaigning to win an election.


When your oil is running out, could you imagine doing the next film.

Caption 62, Fast & Furious 5 - Opening night in Cologne

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The phrase "to run out" of something means your supply is getting low.


But President Bush's team could not have been more professional or more gracious in making sure we had a smooth transition so that we could hit the ground running.

Captions 19-21, Barack Obama - on Trump Presidential Victory

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The phrase "to hit the ground running" is a metaphor that means "to take immediate action." Here you can see another metaphor using "run", albeit here as a noun:


Yes, there are two paths you can go by, but in the long run

There's still time to change the road you're on.

Captions 1-2, Led Zeppelin - Stairway to Heaven

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The phrase "in the long run" means "eventually" or "after a long period of time."


Further Learning
Go to this page and learn some other uses of the verb "to run," as well as searching for the term "run" on Yabla English.

Present Perfect vs. Simple Past

English learners often have some trouble mastering when to use the present perfect tense and when to use the simple past tense. There are some instances where they are indeed interchangeable, but most often the choice between these two tenses is crucial for conveying the meaning of a sentence.


The present perfect is used when a situation, action, or state is not finished or concluded yet. Let’s look at the following two sentences from Yabla English:


She has lived an extraordinary life of public service.

Caption 36, Barack Obama - On Trump Presidential Victory

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And I lived on a boat for three and a half years.

Caption 8, Great Pacific Garbage Patch - Let's Work for Solutions

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In the first example, Barack Obama used the present perfect to indicate that Hilary Clinton has not finished serving the public and will continue to do so in the future. Her life of public service is ongoing. In the second example, the simple past tense makes it clear that the person speaking does not live on the boat anymore. If they used “I have lived” we would know that they are still living on the boat today.  


One clue for knowing which tense to use is that certain words like "since," "ever," and "never" are only used in sentences with the present perfect, whereas "ago," "yesterday," "last week" and "last month" indicate finished periods of time that require the simple past tense. 


We saw so many incredible places.

Caption 2, New Zealand 100% Pure - New Zealand, Home of Middle-earth

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They were the most persistent tigers I've ever seen.

Caption 30, The Marx Brothers - Capt. Spaulding's African Adventures

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In the second sentence above, Captain Spaulding means “I’ve ever seen in my life.” Because he is still living, and it is possible he may see tigers that are even more persistent in the future, the situation is considered unresolved and the present perfect is used.


For the next sentence, note that “this project made a huge difference” would mean that the project is finished, whereas how it is written makes it clear that it is, in fact, ongoing:


There's no doubt that this project has made a huge difference.

Caption 36, WWF: Making a Difference - Rhino Conservation

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In British English, the tenses are more interchangeable. For example, the present perfect is often used when talking about an event that is finished, but happened very recently. 


I have just been to Buckingham Palace.

Caption 1, BBC News - Theresa May: First Speech as Prime Minister

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However, in American English, there are also cases where either tense is applicable. The following sentence is an example in which either tense could be used. This is because the mistake is a finished act, but the situation surrounding the mistake is ongoing.


You really think we made a mistake?

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