Now I'm asked to look at a legal document(here) and answer the question that which provisions apply to a certain case. However, I don't know what the word 'provision' means in a legal context. (English is my second language and I hardly read law-related material at all.) So I looked up the meaning of provision and according to Tanslegal it means:

a statement in a contract or a law that a specific thing must happen or be done

That's still vague to me. First, for the document I'm reading it seems to me more like:

a statement in a contract or a law that a specific thing must not happen or be done

The document I'm looking at have some sections, and some of the sections are talking about formal sections.

For example, section 8 of the document says


A person must not, in the course of a commercial activity, install or cause to be in- stalled a computer program on any other per- son’s computer system or, having so installed or caused to be installed a computer program, cause an electronic message to be sent from that computer system, unless...

This should be a provision, which I understand. However, section 9 is like this:


It is prohibited to aid, induce, procure or cause to be procured the doing of any act contrary to any of sections 6 to 8.

Is the text under section 9 also a provision since it's about something that must not happen?

Section 10 goes on to explain some terms used in section 6 to 8. So these aren't provisions, right?

  • 4
    At least in the US, the advice would be to get the opinion of a lawyer. Advice obtained here, about what something means in ordinary English, or what something would logically mean, may not be correct as far as legal documents are concerned.
    – GEdgar
    Oct 27, 2013 at 19:56
  • 1
    The very least I believe a competent lawyer would need to answer this, would be sight of the entire document. I strongly advise any UK person against replying to this question unless they are a practising solicitor and are covered under public-indemnity insurance.
    – WS2
    Oct 27, 2013 at 20:00
  • @WS2 This is just an exercise, not a real world problem...
    – Gnijuohz
    Oct 27, 2013 at 20:06
  • @GEdgar I'm not seeking legal help here. I'm doing an assignment and need some clarification about what counts as provision
    – Gnijuohz
    Oct 27, 2013 at 20:08
  • It will depend on the jurisdiction. There's no one English legal meaning (if any) of provision.
    – Dogweather
    Jan 5, 2014 at 18:38

3 Answers 3


It's both. The definition you found could be amended to

a statement in a contract or a law that a specific thing must happen or be done, or not happen or not be done.

  • So text under section 10 in my example would not be any provision right because it just explain some tems.
    – Gnijuohz
    Oct 27, 2013 at 20:05
  • @Gnijuohz Yes, definitions in that section would count as "provisions", because they "provide" (require) that such-and-such contractual term must be interpreted as bearing such-and-such sense and no other. Oct 27, 2013 at 20:33
  • @StoneyB hmmm, sounds reasonable... Are you sure about this though?
    – Gnijuohz
    Oct 27, 2013 at 20:47
  • @StoneyB in this way almost everything in that document is provision
    – Gnijuohz
    Oct 27, 2013 at 20:52
  • 1
    I think the key sense of provision here is that it represents the action or an act of providing, preparing, or arranging in advance (OED's definition). To me, it's almost incidental that a legal provision is likely to be expressed in the form of a requirement. In some cases, the key characteristic of, say, a legal provision in an Act of Parliament might simply be that it allows the option of something being done, with no implication of anything being in any way obligatory. Oct 27, 2013 at 22:11

A statement within an agreement or a law that a particular thing must happen or be done, especially before another can happen or be done.

So I would say the set of circumstances that must occur. It will obviously depend on the certain case given. **Remember the timing of the case, because only certain provisions apply after a certain date because of this provision:

  • Any amendments that were not in force as of October 1, 2013 are set out at the end of this document under the heading "Amendments Not in Force".

The meaning of "provision" in this case is somewhat driven by the context. If this was a question on a law school exam, you would want the exact legal definition. If you're asked in a real life setting to identify all provisions applicable to a particular case, the meaning may be (or best taken to be) broader.

The confusion about apparent vagueness, because the definition seems to apply to conflicting conditions, may come from looking too closely for a precise literal legal definition. The explanation of the dichotomy may be more obvious stepping back and looking at a more generic definition.

A provision is something that is provided for in the document. To "provide for" is defined as to make plans in order to deal with a possible event in the future, or in a formal context like a law or agreement, to allow something to happen or exist. That something can refer to anything--a particular action that must happen or must not happen, a condition, etc. "Allowing it to happen" means in the sense of the described condition (specified to happen or not happen), becoming reality as specified.

In a legal document, a provision is typically a dedicated section that describes or specifies an action or condition. It might include words like "shall" or "shall not" (although that is not a requirement). But here's the catch. Relevant information isn't always entirely contained within the sentences of the "provision". For example, there might be an introductory section that describes the various players. That may or may not be an actual provision by a legal definition, but it could define whether a provision is applicable to a specific party.

So for a task to identify all "provisions" applicable to a case, the useful meaning would be all sections of the document that are relevant to the case.

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