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Behavior is readily classified into patterns of movements with inferred common goals-actions. Goals may be discrete; movements are continuous. Through the careful study of isolated movements in laboratory settings, or via introspection, it has become clear that animals can exhibit exquisite graded specification to their movements. Moreover, graded control can be as fundamental to success as the selection of which action to perform under many naturalistic scenarios: a predator adjusting its speed to intercept moving prey, or a tool-user exerting the perfect amount of force to complete a delicate task. The basal ganglia are a collection of nuclei in vertebrates that extend from the forebrain (telencephalon) to the midbrain (mesencephalon), constituting a major descending extrapyramidal pathway for control over midbrain and brainstem premotor structures. Here we discuss how this pathway contributes to the continuous specification of movements that endows our voluntary actions with vigor and grace. Expected final online publication date for the , Volume 43 is July 8, 2020. Please see http://www.annualreviews.org/page/journal/pubdates for revised estimates.