Main motion or substantive motion? Which term to use.

The term “substantive motion” has been around for a long time and is the term most Australian authorities use. The term “main motion” is used in Robert’s Rules of Order Newly Revised, (RONR) the main authority in the USA.

The term “main motion” makes much more sense to most people as it is obvious what it means. I have therefore switched my terminology from “substantive” to “main”.

I suggest that meetings in Australia and New Zealand and Britain and Canada do the same as the technical term “substantive” is such an unusual word that is causes unnecessary confusion for people who may be having enough trouble just working out the meeting procedure game anyway.

So, use the term “main motion” and you will find a lot less people will be asking what you mean.

Related posts:

  1. Procedural motion or formal motion? Which term to use. The terms “formal motion” and “procedural motion” mean exactly yhe same thing. They are motions which act upon the processes or predured being followed in the meeting. They are about the running of the meeting. The problem occurs when people...
  2. Moving to the “next business” Osmund of Perth has asked a question about the procedural motion “That the meeting proceeds to the next business”. His specific question is, what exactly is the next business when this motion is moved. The answer depends on where in...
  3. Can the president (or chair) move a motion at a meeting? Andrea from Koroop in Victoria, Australia has asked:  “Can the president move a motion at a meeting? What law is this held under?” The short answer is yes. The longer answer is that a wise chair will only move certain...
  4. Rescinding motions – Some tricky things to know In a reply to my post about rescission motions, Jason from Victoria has added some really good comments. Thanks Jason. Jason says: “in some cases, recission motions are not valid for a period of time after the substantive motion has...
  5. Does a motion need to be seconded? This question is common and the answer is fairly simple. In Australia and New Zealand it is custom to have every motion seconded. Whether it is a requirement however depends on your constitution or governing rules. If your governing rules...


  1. avatar Sis Akua Says:

    Please i don’t get the real meaning of substantuve motion.

  2. avatar mc Says:

    “Main” (as a noun) suggests that there is only one, the main one. “Substantive” (as an adjective) describes this type of motion well.

    This use of the term “motion” is more unusual to more people than the idea of something being “substantial”. If someone understands “substantial”, they should be able to quickly pick up the idea of “substantive”.

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