Does this sentence make sense?

'Arseniy Yatsenyuk, said a day earlier that the opposition might sit down with the government for talks if Prime Minister Mykola Azarov's Cabinet is dismissed.' (source)

Aren't "Cabinet" and "the government" the same thing (e.g. in Ukraine)?

  • There's no source, I paraphrased a sentence from here (cbsnews.com/news/…). Of course, Europe is not one country Commented Apr 11, 2020 at 21:53
  • It would be better to talk about the actual example and the actual question.
    – James K
    Commented Apr 11, 2020 at 22:26
  • If this question is truly global in it's scope, it's too broad, in that government and cabinet don't mean the same thing everywhere. It really needs to be de-scoped to a single government, or at most, possibly a pair of them.
    – CGCampbell
    Commented Apr 17, 2020 at 19:40
  • I don't think much political discussion in Ukraine takes place in English. Unless Yatsenyuk's comments were in English, this is not a matter of how those terms are used in Ukraine, but how those terms are used in the country of the person who translated those comments. Commented Sep 8, 2020 at 22:30

4 Answers 4


The cabinet is the assembly of so-called cabinet-level officials, often labeled ministers or secretaries. The head of government may or may not be formally part of this group. Examples include Germany and the UK.

In some systems, the dismissal of the entire cabinet by either the head of government or the head of state signals a new general election or -- for parliamentary systems -- a new election within the parliament.

The government is headed by the cabinet, but the label "government" often includes a permanent civil service, at least at the higher level. The UK has the Permanent Secretary, while Germany has two kind of Staatssekretär, either senior civil service or almost-cabinet-level political positions.

So the hope of that quote would have been that the political figures would be dismissed and that the speaker would deal directly with the senior civil servants until a new cabinet is formally appointed.

  • 1
    I've edited the question, as it became apparent that the OP was particularly talking about Ukraine.
    – James K
    Commented Apr 11, 2020 at 22:26
  • @JamesK I wasn't. It was merely the initial impetus for inquiring about the difference between the two terms Commented Apr 12, 2020 at 9:44
  • @Relaxed, I answered the original question, not the edited one.
    – o.m.
    Commented Apr 15, 2020 at 15:55
  • @o.m. Oh, I didn't realize this. I see how it could have been misleading, especially if you're not familiar with political contexts where that sentence makes sense. But it turned out to be wrong.
    – Relaxed
    Commented Apr 15, 2020 at 16:02
  • 1
    My understanding as an Australian is that "cabinet" refers specifically to the Members of Parliament who have been appointed to a Ministry (each of whom is a "frontbencher"), while "government" refers to all the members of the ruling party or coalition, including both the frontbenchers and the backbenchers who don't hold a Ministerial office.
    – nick012000
    Commented Apr 20, 2020 at 8:50

“Government” is somewhat ambiguous in English. It can be essentially synonymous with the word “cabinet” (especially in parliamentary systems) or it can have a broader meaning, covering the civil service and the entire apparatus of the state (“the US government”).

In that case, the meaning is slightly different but reasonably clear: Yatsenyuk was indicating that he was ready to talk to the people in power (and especially the president) provided he fires the cabinet first. This does make sense in a system where the parliament and the head of government are not the main centers of power.

  • Do you mean that a president can be covered by the term 'government'? Commented Apr 15, 2020 at 15:12
  • @SergeyZolotarev Yes, I don't see why not, ultimately the term “government” is rather broad and has different meanings depending on the context. As an example, consider the first sentence of the Wikipedia article on the US president: “The president of the United States (POTUS) is the head of state and head of government of the United States of America. The president directs the executive branch of the federal government […]” This is a pretty typical usage in (American) English.
    – Relaxed
    Commented Apr 15, 2020 at 15:18

In the US, "government" refers to the entire apparatus running the state. It refers to the legislative, executive, and judicial branches. In the UK, it appears to refer to the executive:

The Government runs the country and has responsibility for developing and implementing policy and for drafting laws. It is also known as the Executive.


The head of the government is the Prime Minister, and power is then delegated to the cabinet. Since the cabinet is the highest level of authority other than the Prime Minister, it is often used interchangeably with "government".

When it comes to how the terms are used in Ukraine, I would expect it most of the discussions to take place in Ukrainian, and thus which words are used in an English language newspaper would be based on the usage of the person doing the translating. The article you linked to is an American company, so it is probably intends the US meanings.


As I wrote in a previous answer, there are many definitions of government but according to Oxford, government is simply “the system by which a state or community is controlled or regulated". Meanwhile, a cabinet is a " committee of senior ministers responsible for controlling government policy" in most English speaking democracies like the UK, Canada and Commonwealth nations. In the United States, cabinet means "a body of advisers to the president, composed of the heads of the executive departments of the government". So, a cabinet is a specific group of a government responsible for advising/controlling political policies while a government is a system for controlling or regulating a group of people that may or may not have a cabinet.

'Arseniy Yatsenyuk, said a day earlier that the opposition might sit down with the government for talks if Prime Minister Mykola Azarov's Cabinet is dismissed.'

Basically, the cabinet of the prime minister is just a committee responsible for the executive branch policies that Azarov and other members of the executive branch have to deal with, but they are not the entire government of Ukraine, which also includes branches like the Ukrainian judicial branch.

  • 1
    The definition of "government" described in this answer is not the sense in which the word is being used in the original question.
    – ohwilleke
    Commented Sep 8, 2020 at 17:38
  • @ohwilleke Uh... yes it does. They question is asking why the government and cabinet aren't considered the same thing with the quote showing that in Ukraine, saying a Ukrainian leader will have to talk with the government if their cabinet is dismissed. This shows that similar to the dictionary, the nation of Ukraine and other governments like it don't see the cabinet as the same thing as the overall governing body of the nation.
    – Tyler Mc
    Commented Sep 8, 2020 at 17:45
  • 1
    Many words have multiple senses. For example, the word "composition" can mean a written piece of music, and it can also mean the arrangement of things in a picture. Government is a word like that. It has a broad sense of the entity that carries out governmental functions, but it has a narrow sense, particular to parliamentary systems that has a meaning very similar to a cabinet, but not exactly identical. In the quoted material, it is the narrow sense (which is not in every run of the mill dictionary) that is intended, not the broad sense.
    – ohwilleke
    Commented Sep 8, 2020 at 22:04
  • @ohwilleke I get what you're saying but my point is that this context has thr same meaning as the dictionary definition. I added more information to my answer, but similar to the dictionary definition of cabinet, the cabinet is a small part of the government of Ukraine and even in the narrow sense, it conveys the same idea as the broad dictionary definition: the government and cabinet aren't the same thing. Ukraine's cabinet is over executive branch policies only, so if the cabinet is dismissed, there is a government beyond just this cabinet that others can talk to if the cabinet is removed.
    – Tyler Mc
    Commented Sep 8, 2020 at 22:13

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