Often in legislative bodies, we can find terms like "the motion is accepted" or "the resolution is accepted".

Now, I know that they both mean the same thing of a house's deliberation on a particular issue, but what is the exact difference between a motion and resolution? Does a motion become resolution or does a resolution become motion after gathering enough votes ?

I have tried to look on the internet but there are multiple views which leads to confusion.

  • 1
    I added India as per your last sentence. Otherwise please add location information yourself because this changes all over the world. Aug 20, 2019 at 20:54
  • @Trilarion This probably helps the OP, but really localises the question and probably renders most of my answer useless. Is it better to leave this question to be a bit broader so that many jurisdications can be covered (which the two answers have mostly done?), making it more useful to a wider variety of readers.
    – user27816
    Aug 21, 2019 at 1:02
  • @studro You are right, I have edited Aug 21, 2019 at 1:28

2 Answers 2


A resolution is a written motion.

Thus on procedural points the motion may be spoken. A member might say "Mr Speaker, this debate has now lasted for five hours, I move that we take a 30-minute recess" Such a spoken motion might be passed by a simple vocal vote without a division. The motion is "That we take a thirty minute recess"

On the other hand, a member can submit a written resolution "This house condemns the actions of ..." Such a resolution does not create a new law and so is non-binding. Exactly what must be done in response to a resolution depends on the country. In the UK, one form of resolution is a "Humble address", which is a resolution to send a communication to the Queen. This doesn't create a new law, but does compel the Government to act. The debate on the Queen's speech is on a resolution on a "Humble address", and rejecting the resolution would block the government's legislative program.

A bill is technically a resolution to create a new law, though bills are often distinguished from non-binding resolutions, as the process of passing a bill into law often requires multiple processes and debates in both houses of a bicameral parliament.

So a bill is a resolution to adopt a new law. A resolution is written motion. A motion is any proposal before a parliament, written or unwritten.

In some bodies there may particular specific definitions, for example the UN security council uses "resolution" to in a similar way, but there are special ways that UN resolutions are phrased.

  • In the case of "Mr Speaker, this....recess" above, the motion (proposal) here is to take a 30-minute recess ? Aug 20, 2019 at 6:58
  • 1
    This is undoubtedly the correct definition as per Robert's Rules for US organisations. Do you have a quote that supports that this is the case in the UK too? In other Commonwealth nations, as per my answer, the commonly-accepted definition is slightly different.
    – user27816
    Aug 20, 2019 at 10:03
  • 1
    @studro The final authority would be Erskine May, which isn't online, but based on the evidence here publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201719/cmselect/cmpubadm/1587/… a resolution is a passed motion which isn't an order (i.e. an immediate instruction).
    – origimbo
    Aug 20, 2019 at 10:13

Does a motion become resolution or does a resolution become motion after gathering enough votes?

In Commonwealth nations, this is generally the accepted definition.

From Parliament of Australia, House of Representatives, Motions agreed to—resolutions and orders of the House:

A motion proposed to the House must be phrased in such a way that, if passed, it will purport to express the judgment or will of the House. Every motion, therefore, when agreed to, assumes the form of an order or of a resolution of the House.

An order has been described as a command, and a resolution as a wish. By its orders the House directs its committees, its Members, its staff, the order of its own proceedings and the acts of all persons whom they concern. By its resolutions the House declares its own opinions and purposes. In practice, however, the terms are often used synonymously, resolution being the term most generally used.

From Parliament of Canada, House of Commons, Compendium of Procedure, Private Members' Business: Motions:

Private Members’ motions are used to introduce a wide range of issues and are framed either as resolutions or as orders, depending on their intent. Motions attempting to make a declaration of opinion or purpose, without ordering or requiring a particular course of action, are considered resolutions.

These are typically motions that suggest that the Government initiate a certain measure and are generally phrased as follows: “That, in the opinion of the House, the government should consider ...” The Government is not bound to adopt a specific policy or course of action as a result of the adoption of such a resolution since the House is only stating an opinion or making a declaration of purpose.

Motions, the object of which is to give a direction to committees, Members or officers of the House or to regulate House proceedings, are considered orders once adopted by the House.

This also applies to corporate governance in Commonwealth nations and not just legislative bodies.

Australian Company Secretary Service, Motion or Resolution [pdf]:

The terms ‘motion’ and ‘resolution’ are often used interchangeably in relation a proposal which is to be – or has been – considered, voted or decided on at a meeting (of directors or shareholders, as the case may be).


Strictly speaking, the process goes like this:

  • a motion (i.e., the effect of something being moved) relates to a matter which it is proposed be put forward to a meeting and discussed, then voted on; and
  • a resolution (i.e., the result of something being resolved) is the outcome of what is voted on when it is carried (passed) by those at the meeting.

Finally, from the Australian gold standard on meeting procedure (generally taken to be a statement of Australian Common Law in regard to meeting procedure), N E Renton's Guide for Meetings and Organisations, Vol. 2 - Guide for Meetings, 8th ed., pp. 281, 283:

motion: a proposed resolution before it has been adopted (that is, passed or carried) by a meeting.


resolution: a formal determination by an organised meeting, a motion which has been passed.

In an Indian context, the requirement for a resolution to be an adopted motion is less clear:

Parliament of India, Lok Sabha, Members' Handbook, Ch. II - General, pp. 70, 76 [pdf]:

“Motion”.—It is a formal proposal made to the House by a member that the House do something, order something to be done or express an opinion with regard to some matter, and is so phrased as to be capable of expressing a decision of the House.


“Resolution”.—A self-contained independent proposal submitted for the approval of the House and drafted in such a way as to be capable of expressing a decision of the House. A resolution may be in the form of a declaration of opinion; or a recommendation; or may be in a form so as to record either approval or disapproval by the House of an act or policy of Government; or convey a message; or command urge or request an action; or call attention to a matter or situation for consideration by Government; or in such other form as the Speaker may consider appropriate.

James K's answer gives the definition as per Robert's Rules (an American handbook of meeting procedure), which is generally used in the US, and possibly the definition in a UK context.

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