Section 2: The Three Branches of the U.S. Government

The three divisions of the government are the legislative (Lej-is-lay-tive), the executive (egg-Zek-u-tiv), and the judicial (jew-Dish-al) branches. Each branch has certain powers and duties. The legislative branch makes the laws; the executive branch makes sure the laws are enforced; and the judicial branch explains the laws and settles disputes, or conflicts.

When Great Britain had possessed (owned) the colonies, the people thought that the government had too much control over their lives. In order to prevent this from happening in their new nation, they made sure that the Constitution limited the powers of the government. This was done by separating the power and dividing it into three parts, or branches. Dividing the power this way is called separation of powers. Sharing and balancing the power so that one branch cannot have more power than the others is known as checks and balances.

Checks and Balances

Figure 9. Checks and Balances. Government is divided into three branches—legislative, executive, and judicial. Each branch has equal power so that they “check and balance” each other. (SHSND-ND Studies)