On the 20th January, Joe Biden will officially replace Donald Trump as the President of the United States of America. This process is very traditional, and therefore uses traditional and specific vocabulary. Today’s episode will introduce some of the events that will take place on the 20th, and highlight some of the essential vocabulary you might notice!

(If you can’t see the podcast player CLICK HERE to listen!!)

Vocabulary List

To reverse (v) – to cause something to go in the opposite direction, order, or position

The Court of Appeal reversed the earlier judgment.

Restriction (n) – an official limit on something

I can’t wait for the coronavirus restrictions to be over

-elect (suffix) – used after the title of an official job to refer to someone who has been chosen by vote to do that job, but who has not yet started doing it:

Mr Theroux is chairman-elect of the Promotion Marketing Association.

To deliver (v) – to give or produce a speech 

The President is scheduled to deliver a speech on foreign policy

Address (n) – a formal speech

She gave an address to the Royal Academy 

Long-standing (adj) – having existed for a long time

It’s been our long-standing policy not to allow pets at the hotel

To honour (v) – to show great respect for someone or something, especially in public

I would be honoured to meet him

Parade (n) – a large number of people walking or in vehicles, all going in the same direction, usually as part of a public celebration of something:

To serve (v) – to work for; to do your duty to

He served in the army for 22 years

Oath (n) – a serious promise that you will tell the truth or that you will do what you have said

Presidents take an oath to uphold the Constitution

On Wednesday 20th January, Joe Biden will officially replace Donald Trump as the president of the USA. Now, if you’ve been listening to this podcast for a while or gone back through some earlier episodes, I’m quite interested in US politics. Ever since I took an American politics class at high school, I’ve been fascinated by how the USA chooses its politicians. The second ever episode I recorded of this podcast was about the political debates in the USA, and I then made a series of episodes on essential vocabulary leading up to the US election. 

I wasn’t sure whether i should make this episode or not. Maybe I was hoping that Biden’s inauguration would be a simple and peaceful event. As the date gets closer, it seems likely that this year’s inauguration will be one of the most important and unique in modern history! The President of the USA is the leader of the world’s most influential country, as well as the commander of the most powerful army. International politics, relations, economics, and global culture will all be impacted by the change in American leadership. Even before the change has happened, President-elect Biden’s team has already announced their intention to reverse many of Trump’s controversial policies on the first day: including rejoining the Paris Climate deal, removing the restrictions on certain counties’ people travelling to the USA, and completely redesigning the US border policies.

Before I look at the key vocabulary you need, I’ll give you an idea of the Inauguration schedule! President-elect Mr Biden and Vice President-elect Ms Harris will be expected to take the oath of office at noon at the US Capitol in Washington DC. Mr Biden will then deliver an inaugural address to set out his vision for his term as president. At the same time, Lady Gaga will sing the national anthem and Jennifer Lopez will provide a further musical performance.  

Following this, the Pass in Review will take place. The Pass in Review is a long-standing military tradition that reflects the peaceful transfer of power to a new president. Mr Biden and Ms Harris will lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, honouring members of the military who have passed away. Former Presidents Obama, Bush and Clinton will join the newly inaugurated president and vice president for the ceremony.

Normally there would be a parade and celebration with thousands of the newly inaugurated President’s followers. However, this is not possible due to the ongoing pandemic. Instead, Mr Biden will receive a Presidential Escort to the White House without attracting large crowds and gatherings. Following the escort, a virtual parade across America that will be televised. According to Biden’s team, “The parade will celebrate America’s heroes, highlight Americans from all walks of life in different states and regions, and reflect on the diversity, heritage, and resilience of the country as we begin a new American era.”

Finally, a 90-minute prime-time program special titled “Celebrating America” will be hosted by Tom Hanks from 8.30pm to 10.30pm on the evening following the inauguration. The program will feature remarks from Mr Biden and Ms Harris, performances, and footage of American heroes working to fight crises across the country. There will also be special celebrity guests and musical performances.

Inauguration day might seem like a simple ceremony, but if you want to watch the event on TV or the internet, there is a lot of specialist vocabulary you should know! So, for the rest of this episode, I will introduce some of this essential vocabulary! 


So let’s start with the basics. Inauguration. This word is in the title of the episode – but what does it mean? What is an inauguration? Well, in general terms, inauguration is the act of officially putting someone into an important position, or the ceremony at which this is done. And I’m sure you agree that the US President is certainly an important position! More specifically for this episode, inauguration in the USA refers to the act of putting a President into power, and the ceremony itself! For example, Joe Biden’s inauguration will take place this week! There are also some related pieces of vocabulary. Inauguration day, in the US, is the day when a person officially becomes president in a special ceremony and takes responsibility from the previous president. There is also the verb to inaugurate. To inaugurate to put someone into an official position with a ceremony. American presidents are always inaugurated on 20 January.


A term is a limited period of time during which something lasts. You may have this in the context of school terms. In the UK our school year is broken into three terms. The term of office of the U.S. President is four years. So Trump was inaugurated four years ago in 2016, and only served one term as president. US presidents can only serve for a maximum of two terms – which is 8 years! 


The Capitol is the government building in Washington where the United States Senate and the House of Representatives meet. It is also the place where the inauguration ceremony will take place. A common error that even native speakers make is mistaking Capitol (with an ‘o’) and capital (with an ‘a’). Capitol (with an ‘o’) is the building, whereas capital (with an ‘a’) is the main city of a country (so Washington D.C.). 

White House

I’m sure you already know this, but the White House is the government building that serves as the residence and office of the President of the United States. Joe Biden will move in later this week! There are usually a few other events held at the White House during the inauguration, but the pandemic has cancelled those plans!

Chief justice

The Chief justice is the judge who presides over a supreme court, and the supreme court is the highest court in the country. The current chief justice of the supreme court is John Roberts. What role do they play in the inauguration of a president? Well, they administer the Oath of Office to the President.

Oath of Office

So, I just mentioned that Justice John Roberts will administer the Oath of Office… but what is an oath of office? Basically, it is a promise the new President makes to take his role seriously and to follow the responsibilities of their job. By saying it, they are then approved as President of the USA! It’s actually quite short – so I’ll say it now!

“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

Inaugural address

This is an address, or speech, the president will deliver after becoming President of the USA! It is expected Biden will use the inaugural address to set out his vision for his term as president.

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By Tom Wilkinson

Host and founder of Thinking in English, Tom is committed to providing quality and interesting content to all English learners. Previously a research student at a top Japanese university and with a background in English teaching, political research, and Asian languages, Tom is now working fulltime on bettering Thinking in English!

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