Daily English
Cultural English
Practical English

007 How many amendments does the Constitution have?

7. How many amendments does the Constitution have?
Answer: Twenty-seven (27)

When the Founding Fathers (or the men who made the U.S. government) wrote the Constitution in 1787, they wanted a government that would grow and change as America grew and changed. Everything they had written seemed like a good idea, but they knew that people might need or want to change parts of the Constitution later. The Founding Fathers wanted their new government to last a long time, and allowing Constitutional Amendments was their way to make sure that the government could change to meet the changing country’s needs. The word amendment comes from the verb to amend, which means to change something, so an amendment is a change to the Constitution. Because the Constitution is always changing and being reinterpreted (or read again and understood differently), many people call it a “living document.”

Amendments are added to the Constitution for many reasons: to overrule (or cancel or undo) a decision made by the Supreme Court (the highest court of the United States), to change something that was written in the Constitution, or to change something in society. For example, the Nineteenth Amendment changed something very important for half of the country—it gave women the right to vote in 1920. Before then, women were not allowed to vote. This Amendment forced society to change the way it thought about women and it eventually led to other changes and more equal rights for women in the United States.

A proposed amendment (or one that has been suggested but not yet approved) must be approved by both the Senate and the House of Representatives. Once it is approved by the Senate and the House of Representatives, the amendment must be approved by three-fourths (or 75%) of the states before it can be added to the Constitution. The Constitution says that another way to make amendments is to have another Constitutional Convention (or meeting of the states’ representatives), but this has never been done. The U.S. presidents do not participate in the passage (or approval) of an amendment, but they can tell the public what they think about it.

Currently, there are 27 amendments to the Constitution. The first 10 are collectively (or as a group) known as the Bill of Rights. The amendments included in the Bill of Rights were added long ago, in 1791. The most recent amendment (Amendment 27) was ratified (or approved) in 1992.


Founding Fathers – the group of men who made the U.S. government
* George Washington and Thomas Jefferson are two very famous Founding Fathers.

to amend – to change something, especially the U.S. Constitution, usually by adding something to it
* When was the Constitution amended to let 18-year-olds vote?

to reinterpret – to read something again and decide that it should be understood differently
* The first time I read the book, I thought it was arguing that more money should be spent on education, but the second time I read it, I reinterpreted it to mean that we should be spending money on education more wisely.

to overrule – to cancel or undo a decision made earlier by someone else
* The company's president overruled the vice-president's decision, saying that it would make the company lose money.

proposed – suggested but not yet approved
* The program has a proposed budget of $465,000, but it probably won't be approved.

passage – approval; the moment when the people making the decision agree to make a new law or rule
* The passage of the Clean Air Act was very important for environmentalists in the United States.

collectively – as a group; together; not independently
* Collectively, the doctors in this clinic have more than 100 years of experience.

Bill of Rights – the first ten amendments to the U.S. Constitution, which state the rights that all Americans should have
* Some people believe that the Bill of Rights is the most important part of the U.S. Constitution