Morning Joe – vocabulary and grammar


line 2 (to detail)
Moments after the government detailed the most devestating … (in English we can use “detail” as a verb. It means to give the details of something. It is used transitively but does not take a person as its object, i.e. you can detail a situation but you cannot detail a person)

line 4 (to reject s.t/s.o. flat out)
They flat out rejected the idea. (completely rejected)

line 8 (never have we)
Never have we ever not held an election. (never in first position requires inversion, i.e. the noun is placed in front of the subject in a statement. This statement is actually a double-negative but it is one of the situations where English can use a double-negative)

line 15 (to walk something back)
The President walked back the idea. (he changed his mind, he reduced his support for)

line 20 (aghast)
The Republicans are aghast. (very afraid/very shocked)

line 22 (to throw in the towel)
He is already throwing in the towel. (a metaphore from boxing which means to quit before you lose)

line 42 (to outdo s.o.)
The President outdid himelf. (to do more than/better than expected)

line 43 (incindiary)
His remarks were incidiary. (designed to provoke)

line 45 – The National Review is a very important conservative magazine.

line 46 (to seek)
They sought to destroy (wanted to/tried to)

line 52 (to shape)
The Presidency has not shaped him. (has not changed him, has not formed him)

line 60/61 (a fastball)
a baseball metaphore…in this case it is something that someone cannot easily defend against)

line 65 (to paint oneself into a corner)
He has painted himself into a corner. (He has put himself in a position that he cannot get out of)

line 71 (mail-in ballot)
…but mail-in ballot fraud, and we`ll just say it again, is incredibly, incredibly rare,
(a mail-in ballot is when you vote by mail, fraud is when you try to lie to or trick someone)

line 80 (absentee balloting)
You know it as absentee balloting (an absentee ballot is a mail-in ballot)

Grammar – going to

The “going-to” future

the “going to” future is usually explained as follows.

  • We use it to talk about intentions, i.e. what we want to do.
  • We use it to talk about predictions based on things that are clear to us at the moment.

With that in mind, let`s take a look at how the speakers use “going to” in this exchange and what it means.

line 10/11
“We are not going to delay the election, Stuart, we are going to have the election completed and voting completed by election day.”
(Here the first “going to” could mean “it is not our intention to delay” or it could mean “from our perspective today there is no reason for delaying the election.” In the second part of the sentence it means that we intend/want to have all voting done by election day.)

line 14
“The election is going to happen in November, period.”
(Based on the perspective of today, he predicts the election will take place in November. Note! This is actually a weak prediction. “going to`s” are not promises, they are intentions or predictions. If he were promising, he would have said; “The election will happen in November, period.”

line 18
Boy, he really knows he`s going to lose this Fall. (the President sees from the current situation that he has no chance in November.)

line 32
That`s what is going to happen, Steve. (the President`s prediction of chaos on election night is based on all the information he has now)

line 62
…and if you are going to keep claiming that the election is rigged, … (in this case you could replace if you are going to with “if you intend to” because going to here is talking about an intention.)

line 73
There is going to be a lot of mail-in voting this time. (here going to has both meanings. it could mean that a lot of people want to vote by mail or it could mean that based on the current COVID-19 pandemic, a lot of people probably will have to vote by mail)

Grammar – Past Simple / Present Perfect

Past Simple

The Past Simple talks about the past. So we use the past (simple or continuous) to talk about situations or activities that;

  • started in the past and finished in the past,
  • have no influence on the present.

In addition, you can usually say exactly when these things happened (see keywords).


  • I woke up at 6 a.m. yesterday.
  • My sister visited me three weeks ago.
  • Last week the President detailed his plan to fight COVID-19.
  • Did you enjoy the party last night?
  • Our plane didn`t arrive on time.


Keywords for the Past Simple 

all adverbs that refer to a specific time in the past. (specific time is time you can find on a calender, a watch, etc.)

  • yesterday
  • three weeks ago
  • last week
  • last night
  • last month
  • last year

Present Perfect

The Present Perfect is a present tense. It always says something about now. We use it to talk about situations or activities that;

  • started in the past and continue until now (answers the question how long)
  • present results of past event are important now.

If you are talking about the present results of a past event, then the time of the event is always undefined. (see keywords)


  • I have known my wife for 20 years.
  • Look, the taxi has just arrived.
  • Have you heard the news?
  • She hasn`t talked to him for ages.

Keywords for Present Perfect

adverbs of time that refer to an undefined (relative) time in the past, as well as the preposition since and for if it is clear the situation or activity is ongoing.

  • recently
  • just
  • already
  • since 2010
  • for three weeks
  • etc.

From the transcript

Examples of Past Simple 

line 1
The tweet came out at the end of our show yesterday. (Past simple because I know exactly when this happened in the past, i.e. at the end of the show yesterday.)

line 64
Yes, it was a rare day yesterday, Joe (yesterday takes the Past Simple)

line 64/65
the President found very, very few defenders on this idea (references yesterday again)

From the transcript

Examples of Present Perfect

line 8
Never in the history of the federal elections have we ever not held an election (the present perfect answers the question how long? / since when? and is used when the situation/activity is still ongoing)

line 25
You know, so many years I have been watching elections and … (the present perfect answers the question how long? How long has he been watching elections? Many.)

line 59
These are from two publications who have defended him time and time again over the past several years (how long have they defended him? Over the past several years – since he has been in office. The time phrase “over the past few years” also includes this year, which makes the time reference to now, and hence we use the PRESENT PERFECT)

line 65
He has painted himself into a corner (his past activities have led to this current situation. Exactly when he did this, we don`t know and don`t care. He is in a corner now. That is what is important here.)

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