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This is a two part question:

1) First, is it correct to say that the two presidencies of Nixon and Ford constitute two 'presidential terms' (and not one split-up term)?

2) If so, I need a word or phrase to describe the 4-year presidential __ that has remained fairly consistent since George Washingtion.

Edit: An example (from an admittedly weak source, and one that contradicts the premise in question one) presents a column of 'terms' as sometimes shared between presidents: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Presidents_of_the_United_States Highlighting that column, this community states, "Upon the resignation of 37th president Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford became the 38th president even though he simply served out the remainder of Nixon's second term ..." Is this wrong? Or can the word 'term' ambiguous.

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2 Answers 2

The word you want is 4-year term. The US Constitution determines the length of 4 years, describes how a president might be removed, and who replaces them. A president's term, is also the time the served in the office of the presidency, so it is correct to speak of Nixon and Ford's terms as separate even though they were shorter than normal.

Article. II. Section. 1. The executive Power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America. He shall hold his Office during the Term of four Years, and, together with the Vice President, chosen for the same Term, be elected, as follows: [...]

In Case of the Removal of the President from Office, or of his Death, Resignation, or Inability to discharge the Powers and Duties of the said Office, the Same shall devolve on the Vice President, and the Congress may by Law provide for the Case of Removal, Death, Resignation or Inability, both of the President and Vice President, declaring what Officer shall then act as President, and such Officer shall act accordingly, until the Disability be removed, or a President shall be elected.

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The word term is ambiguous and conditional. Spoken generally, it means the 4-year period from inauguration until the next inauguration. It is appropriate to say that a Vice President completed the term of the President he succeeded. It is also appropriate to say "during the VP's term" and refer only to the rump period.

It can also be modified to imply the entire presidency, e.g. "during FDR's term in office," though this usage is less accepted and most people would probably prefer to use a synonym like "period" or "time." But the more technical usage is as the 4-year period, such that we speak of "Obama's second term" and "FDR's third term" as distinct periods. This is true even though we do not conventionally number a second term as a different presidency than the first term, so Obama is the 44th president and has been since inaugurated in 2009. But note the exception for Grover Cleveland, who was the only president to serve non-consecutive terms, and who is considered the 22nd and 24th president.

Re question 1, it is normal to say that a VP completes the term of his predecessor.

Re question 2, "term" is the word you are looking for.

Because the word "term" is also a regularly used word outside this context, sometimes people use it to refer to "period in office" or "length of time." So the meaning can be ambiguous and can be modified by the words around it.

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