The Study on Verb Form in the Headline of English News


西江文艺 2016年6期

李锦 蒋佳琦

【Abstract】:In most news headlines, the verb form plays an indispensable role. Most publishers choose short headlines in order to save space and attract readers' attention in a short period of time. The form of verbs in headlines changes from the tense to the voice. Different verb forms possess different meanings in the headlines and function differently.

【Key words】: Verb form, news headline, tense, voice

1.The Importance of Verb Form in the Headline of News

The headline of the news plays an essential role in news reports. The merit of the headline influences the page views and decides the value of the report. ①Generally, a good news headline is able to directly reflect the content of the news and stimulate readers interests.

Verbs in the headline have the capability of changing the headline to be more plentiful and vivid. There are some regulations of the verb form in news headline.

2.The Verb Form in English News Headlines

The verb in English news headline must be in conformity with character number requirement in headline according to the news writing style. The verb form appears in a way not the same as it is used in other writings. The grammatical features can mainly be reflected from three aspects: finite form, non-finite form and modal auxiliary.

2.1. The Features of Finite Form in News Headlines

Mostly, people are used to applying simple present/ simple past, present progressive and future tense in the news headline. The news can be reported in the form of simple past, and it is more formal than the usage of simple present. The simple present is widely used to indicate the event or accidenthas happened just now, which, however, is fresh until now and the quality is worth spreading.The present progressive displays two meanings. On the one hand, it means the active voice, and on the other hand, it indicates a certain action is in progress. Considering the limit of the space of the whole page, reporters usually cut off "Be" in present progressive to save space. If the news is about some events that are to take place according to the plan or prediction, then here comes the future tense. It includes the form of infinitive and the verb "Will". People are more likely to select the infinitive because of its brevity. Here are some examples chosen from native English news that indicate the regulation mentioned above:

Simple present:

1)Two Die in Two University Shootings

2)Fifteen Bullets A Month

Present progressive:

1)Peter and Charlie Saunders Mont Blanc deaths: Killed doing what 'they loved'

2)Its Lynchs Hearing and Hagels Last Day

Future Tense:

1)Russia and US to Hold Syria Air Talks

2)Obama was Unbowed

2.2. The Features of Non-finite Form in News Headlines

There are mainly two formats of Non-finite forms used in English news headline. The first one is the phrase "To Do", and the second one is "Doing". "To Do" is used to indicate the goal or the function of a certain identity, and it can also mean the plan that has officially made recently. "Doing" is a format to show something that is taking place at present or the current situation. The examples are as follows:

1)Ways to Prevent Your Miles from Exploring

2)Americans Working More but Doing Less

By using the format of non-finite forms in headlines, it is more likely to increase readers curiosity and add novel value of the news, which increase the read view without doubt invisibly.

2.3The Features of Modal Auxiliaryin News Headlines

Some English news promulgators covering politics, economics, diplomacy and science and technology, and working as the transmitter of the national government, should be announced officially and politely. When editing the headline of these types of news, modal auxiliaries are often used in the need of official wording. For instance,

1)Better Test Scores Could MeanTrillions of Dollars for the US Economy

2)Gun Control Advocates New Bill Would Limit Gun Ammunition Devices

The modal Auxiliaries are used to express an attitude of politeness, conjecture, etc in the news headline, and really play a significant role in the whole passage. Users should always take care of its use.

3.The Features of Voice

In the process of English news reporting, most reporters would take the positive voice in the headline which makes the headline be more vivid, direct and intense. While using the positive voice, generally speaking, the headline consists of active voice and the main verb. The following examples can assist our understanding of the usage of the positive voice:

1)Israeli jets hit targets in Gaza Strip

2)South Indian actress Manorama dies

In these headlines, the reporters use the positive voice to describe the events, which not only express the main content of the report straightly, intensely but also inspire readers interest of the passage.

In the opposite, the disadvantages of complex writing styles and the inability of assisting readers to understand the exact meaning of the news headline contribute to the lower using frequency of passive voice. Even if the passive voice is used in the headline, the reporters tend to skeletonize the verb as much as possible by cutting off the word "Be". As the following examples shows:

1)Lake Chad town hit by suicide bombers

2)Government Web Sites Invaded


The verb form plays a significant role in the English news headline. Although the headline of the news is a small text part for us to do research, it turns out to be all in readiness as long as the verb exists. ② Reporters are supposed to write a brief and defined headline by using proper verb form. It not only save the space for the whole reports but also have the function of arousing readers interests in a short time as well as increasing the read view. Only in this way can the English news headline be more fresh, attractive, exact and aesthetic. The journalism is developing to a degree that is more modern and contemporary.