News headlines

News Headlines

1 special language

Headlines are the short titles above news reports (e.g. RUSSIAN WOMAN LANDS ON MOON). English news headlines can be very difficult to understand. One reason for this is that headlines are often written in a special style, which is very different from ordinary English. In this style there are some special rules of grammar, and words are often used in unusual ways.

2 grammar

a Headlines are not always complete sentences. Many headlines consist of noun phrases with no verb.

MORE WAGE CUTS HOLIDAY HOTEL DEATH

EXETER MAN’S DOUBLE MARRIAGE BID

b Headlines often contain strings of three, four or more nouns; nouns earlier in the string modify those that follow.

FURNITURE FACTORY PAY CUT ROW

Headlines like these can be difficult to understand. It sometimes helps to read them backwards. FURNITURE FACTORY PAY CUT ROW refers to a ROW (disagreement) about a CUT (reduction) in PAY at a FACTORY that makes FURNITURE.

c Headlines often leave out articles and the verb be.

SHAKESPEARE PLAY IMMORAL SAYS HEADMASTER

SCHOOLBOY WALKS IN SPACE

d In headlines, simple tenses are often used instead of progressive or perfect

forms. The simple present is used for both present and past events.

BLIND GIRL CLIMBS EVEREST (= … has climbed … )

STUDENTS FIGHT FOR COURSE CHANGES (= … are fighting … )

The present progressive is used to talk about changes. Be is usually dropped.

BRITAIN GETTING WARMER, SAY SCIENTISTS

TRADE FIGURES IMPROVING

e Many headline words are used as both nouns and verbs, and nouns are often

used to modify other nouns (see paragraph 2b). So it is not always easy to work

out the structure of a sentence. Compare:

US  CUTS AID TO THIRD WORLD (= The US reduces its help … CUTS is a

verb, AID is a noun.)

AID CUTS ROW (= There has been a disagreement about the reduction in

aid. AID and CUTS are both nouns.)

CUTS AID REBELS (= The reduction is helping the revolutionaries. CUTS is

a noun, AID is a verb.)

f Headlines often use infinitives to refer to the future.

PM TO VISIT AUSTRALIA

HOSPITALS TO TAKE FEWER PATIENTS

For is also used to refer to future movements or plans.

TROOPS FOR GLASGOW? (= Are soldiers going to be sent to Glasgow?)

g Auxiliary verbs are usually dropped from passive structures.

MURDER HUNT: MAN HELD (= … a man is being held by police. )

SIX KILLED IN EXPLOSION (= Six people have been killed … )

Note that forms like HELD, ATTACKED are usually past participles with

passive meanings, not past tenses (which are rare in headlines). Compare:

- AID ROW: PRESIDENT ATTACKED (= … the President has been attacked.)

AID ROW: PRESIDENT ATTACKS CRITICS

(= … the President has attacked her critics.)

- BOY FOUND SAFE (= The missing boy has been found safe; he is safe.)

BOY FINDS SAFE (= A boy has found a safe.)

h As and in are often used instead of longer connecting expressions.

HOSPITAL BOSS AXED AS PATIENTS DIE (= … because patients die.)

FOOTBALL MANAGER IN CAR CRASH

A colon (:) is often used to separate the subject of a headline from what is said about it.

STRIKES: PM TO ACT MOTORWAY CRASH: DEA TH TOLL RISES

Quotation marks (” .. .’) are used to show that words were said by somebody else, and that the report does not necessarily claim that they are true.

CRASH DRIVER ‘HAD BEEN DRINKING’

A question mark (?) is often used when something is not certain.

CRISIS OVER BY SEPTEMBER?

3 vocabulary

Short words save space, and so they are very common in headlines. Some of the short words in headlines are unusual in ordinary language (e.g. curb, meaning ‘restrict’ or ‘restriction’), and some are used in special senses which they do not often have in ordinary language (e.g. bid, meaning ‘attempt’).   Other words are chosen not because they are short, but because they sound dramatic (e.g. blaze, which means ‘big fire’, and is used in headlines to refer to any fire). The following is a list of common headline vocabulary.

act :take action; do something   FOOD CRISIS: GOVERNMENT TO ACT

Aid: military or financial help; to help MORE AID FOR POOR COUNTRIES

UNIO’NS AID HOSPITAL STRIKERS

Alert: alarm, warning                        FLOOD ALERT ON EAST COAST

allege make an accusation                WOMAN ALLEGES UNFAIR TREA TMENT

appear: appear in court accused of a crime  MP TO APPEAR ON DRUGS CHARGES

axe: abolish, close down; abolition, closure         COUNTRY BUS SERVICES AXED

SMALL SCHOOLS FACE AXE

BA: British Airways                                           BA MAKES RECORD LOSS

Back: support                                                AMERICA BACKS BRITISH PEACE MOVE

Ban: forbid, refuse to allow something; prohibition

US BANS STEEL IMPORTS

NEW BAN ON DEMONSTRATIONS

Bar: refuse/refusal to allow entry

HOTEL BARS FOOTBALL FANS

NEW BAR ON IMMIGRANTS

bid attempt              JAPANESE WOMEN IN NEW EVEREST BID

blast explosion; criticise violently   BLAST AT PALACE

PM BLASTS CRITICS blaze fire SIX DIE IN HOTEL BLAZE

block stop, delay             TORIES BLOCK TEACHERS’ PAY DEAL

blow bad news; discouragement; unfortunate happening

SMITH ILL: BLOW TO WORLD CUP HOPES

bolster give support/encouragement to     EXPORT FIGURES BOLSTER CITY CONFIDENCE

bond political/business association           NEW TRADE BONDS WITH ICELAND

boom big increase; prosperous period         SPENDING BOOM OVER, SAYS MINISTER

boost encourage(ment); to increase; an increase           PLAN TO BOOST EXPORTS

brink edge (of disaster)                                               WORLD ON BRINK OF WAR

Brussels the European Community parliament and administration

BRUSSELS BANS BRITISH BLACKBERRY WINE

call (for) demand/ appeal (for)               CALL FOR STRIKE TALKS

HOSPITAL ROW: MP CALLS FOR ENQUIRY

campaign organised effort to achieve social or political result

MP LAUNCHES CAMPAIGN FOR PRISON REFORM

cash money                                       MORE CASH NEEDED FOR SCHOOLS

charge accusation (by police)              THREE MEN HELD ON BOMB CHARGE

chop abolition, closure                         300 BANK BRANCHES FACE CHOP

City London’s financial institutions        NEW TRADE FIGURES PLEASE CITY

claim (make) a statement that something is true (especially when there may be disagreement); pay claim demand for higher wages

SCIENTIST CLAIMS CANCER BREAKTHROUGH

RACISM CLAIM IN NAVY                                                  TEACHER’ PAY CLAIM REJECTED

clamp down on deal firmly with (usually something illegal)

POLICE TO CLAMP DOWN ON SPEEDING

clash quarrel, fight (noun or verb)                 PM IN CLASH OVER ARMS SALES

STUDENTS CLASH WITH POLICE

clear find innocent                                     DOCTOR CLEARED OF DRUGS CHARGE

Commons the House of Commons (in Parliament)

MINISTERS IN COMMONS CLASH OVER HOUSING

con swindle                       TEENAGERS CON WIDOW OUT OF LIFE SAVINGS

crackdown firm application of the law

GOVERNMENT PROMISES CRACKDOWN ON DRUGS DEALERS

crash financial failure         BANK CRASH THREATENS TO BRING DOWN GOVERNMENT

curb restrict; restriction                        NEW PRICE CURBS

cut reduce; reduction                        BRITAIN CUTS OVERSEAS AID

NEW HEALTH SERVICE CUTS

cutback reduction (usually financial)               TEACHERS SLAM SCHOOL CUTBACKS

dash (make) quick journey                               PM IN DASH TO BLAST HOSPITAL

deadlock disagreement that cannot be solved     DEADLOCK IN PEACE TALKS

deal agreement, bargain                                        TEACHERS REJECT NEW PAY DEAL

demo demonstration                                           30 ARRESTED IN ANTI~TAX DEMO

dole unemployment pay                                     DOLE QUEUES LENGTHEN

drama dramatic event; tense situation                PRINCE IN AIRPORT DRAMA

drive united effort                                                 DRIVE TO SAVE WATER

drop give up, get rid of; fall (noun)            GOVERNMENT TO DROP CHILD LABOUR PLAN

BIG DROP IN INDUSTRIAL INVESTMENT

due expected to arrive                                 QUEEN DUE IN BERLIN TODAY

duo DNO people                                           HANDICAPPED DUO ROW ACROSS ATLANTIC

EU The European Union                             EU TRADE MINISTERS TO MEET

edge move gradually                                     WORLD EDGES TOWARDS WAR

envoy ambassador                                          FRENCH ENVOY DISAPPEARS

face be threatened by                         HOSPITALS FACE MORE CUTS STRIKERS FACE SACK

feud long-lasting quarrel or dispute  FAMILY FEUD EXPLODES INTO VIOLENCE: SIX HELD

find something that is found        BEACH FIND MAY BE BONES OF UNKNOWN DINOSAUR

firm determined not to change                     PM FIRM ON TAX LEVELS

flak heavy criticism                                        GOVERNMENT FACES FLAK OVER VAT

flare begin violently                                        RIOTS FLARE IN ULSTER

foil prevent somebody from succeeding         TWELVE-YEAR-OLD FOILS BANK RAIDERS

fraud swindle, deceit                                     JAIL FOR TICKET FRA UD MEN

freeze keep(ing) prices etc at their present level; block(ing) a bank account

MINISTER WANTS TWO- YEAR PAY FREEZE                  DRUG PROFITS FROZEN

fuel provide reason for growth (of anger, protest etc)     PAY FREEZE FUELS UNION ANGER

gag consortship), prevent (ion) from speaking    AFRICAN PRESIDENT ACTS TO GAG PRESS

gems jewels                            £2m GEMS STOLEN

go resign; be lost, disappear         PM TO GO?

4,000 JOBS TO GO IN NORTH

go for be sold for                        PICASSO DRA WING GOES FOR £5m

go-ahead approval              SCOTTISH ROAD PLAN GETS GO-AHEAD

grab take violently               INVESTORS GRAB SHARES IN SCOTTISH COMPANIES

grip control; hold tightly          REBELS TIGHTEN GRIP ON SOUTH

COLD WAVE GRIPS COUNTRY

gun down shoot          TERRORISTS GUN DOWN PRIEST

hail welcome, praise    PM HAILS PEACE PLAN

halt stop                      CAR PLANT TO HALT PRODUCTION

haul amount stolen in robbery, or seized by police or customs

TRAIN ROBBERY: BIG GOLD HAUL

RECORD DRUGS HAUL AT AIRPORT

head lead; leader     PM TO HEAD TRADE MISSION

COMMONWEALTH HEADS TO MEET IN OTTAWA

head for/to move towards        ECONOMY HEADING FOR DISASTER, EXPERTS WARN

heed pay attention to            GOVERNMENT MUST HEED DIVORCE FIGURES, SAYS BISHOP

hike (AmE)rise in costs, prices etc              INTEREST HIKE WILL HIT BUSINESS

hit affect badly                                  SNOWSTORMS HIT TRANSPORT

hit out at attack (with words)              PM HITS OUT AT CRITICS

hitch problem that causes delay         LAST-MINUTE HITCH DELAYS SATELLITE LAUNCH

hold arrest; keep under arrest              MAN HELD AFTER STATION BLAST

POLICE HOLD TERROR SUSPECT

in (the) red in debt; making a financial loss               BRITISH STEEL IN RED

IRA Irish Republican Army                                   IRA LEADER MAKES STATEMENT

jail prison                                                                 JAIL FOR PEACE MARCHERS

jobless unemployed (people)                              THREE MILLION JOBLESS BY APRIL?

key important, vital                                          KEY WITNESS VANISHES

landslide victory by large majority in election            LANDSLIDE FOR NATIONALISTS

lash criticise violently                                       BISHOP LASHES TV SEX AND VIOLENCE

launch send (satellite etc) into space; begin (campaign etc); put (new product) on market

SPACE TELESCOPE LAUNCH DELAYED

ENVIRONMENT MINISTER LAUNCHES CAMPAiGN FOR CLEANER   BEACHES

BRITiSH FIRM LA UNCHES THROW-A WA Y CHAIRS

lead clue (in police enquiry)                          NEW LEAD IN PHONEBOX MURDER CASE

leak unofficial publication of secret information        PM FURIOUS OVER TAX PLAN LEAKS

leap big increase                                                        LEAP IN IMPORTS

life imprisonment ‘for life’                                        LIFE FOR AXE MURDERER

link connection, contact                                           NEW TRADE LINKS WITH PERU

loom threaten to happen                                          VAT ON FOOD: NEW ROW LOOMS

Lords the House of Lords (in Parliament)               LORDS VOTE ON DOG REGISTRATION

lotto the national lottery                  DANCING GRANDMOTHER IN RECORD LOTTO WIN

mar spoil                                          CROWD VIOLENCE MARS CUP FINAL

mercy intended to save lives                          DOCTOR IN MERCY DASH TO EVEREST

mission delegation (official group sent to conference ete)        SHOTS FIRED AT UN MISSION

mob angry crowd; organised crime / Mafia (AmE) 

MOBS RAMPAGE THROUGH CITY STREET                              MOB LEADERS HELD

move step towards a particular result (often political)

MOVE TO BOOST TRADE LINKS WITH JAPAN

MP Member of Parliament                     MP DENIES DRUGS CHARGE

MEP Member of the European Parliament                MEPS WANT MORE PAY

nail force somebody to admit the truth                MP NAILS MINISTER ON PIT CLOSURE PLANS

net win, capture                                       TWO SISTERS NET £3m IN POOLS WIN

no 10 the Prime Minister’s residence (No 10 Downing Street)                                                  ANOTHER Petition HANDED IN AT No 10

OAP old age pensioner; anybody over 65        OAPS MARCH AGAINST WAR PLANS

odds chances, probability                                     JONES RE-ELECTED AGAINST THE ODDS

on about, on the subject of, concerning                NEW MOVE ON PENSIONS

opt (for) choose     WALES OPTS FOR INDEPENDENCE

oust drive out, replace         MODERATES OUSTED IN UNION ELECTIONS

out to intending to Nationalists OUT TO CAPTURE MASS VOTE

over about, on the subject of, because of                 ROW OVER AID CUTS

pact agreement     DEFENCE PACT RUNS INTO TROUBLE

pay wages        TRANSPORT PAY TALKS BREAK DOWN

PC police constable    PC SHOT IN BANK RAID

peak high point     BANK LENDING HITS NEW PEAK

peer lord; Member of the House of Lords

PEERS REJECT GOVERNMENT WAGE-FREEZE BAN

peg hold (prices etc) at present level BANKS PEG INTEREST RA TES

pensioner old age pensioner; anybody over 65 PENSIONER SKIS DOWN MONT BLANC

peril danger           FLOOD PERIL IN THAMES VALLEY

pit coal mine                   PIT TURNED INTO MUSEUM

plant factory          STEEL PLANT BLAZE

plea call for help                       BIG RESPONSE TO PLEA FOR FLOOD AID

pledge promise                GOVERNMENT GIVES PLEDGE ON JOBLESS

PM Prime Minister EGG THROWN AT PM

poised to ready to, about to      TORIES POISED TO MAKE ELECTION GAINS poll election; public opinion survey                      TORIES AHEAD IN POLLS

pools football pools: a form of gambling in which people guess the results of

football matches                       SISTERS SHARE BIG POOLS WIN

premier head of government                         GREEK PREMIER TO VISIT UK

press the newspapers                BID TO GAG PRESS OVER DEFENCE SPENDING

press (for) urge, encourage, ask for urgently  MINISTER PRESSED TO ACT ON HOUSING

OPPOSITION PRESS FOR ENQUIRY ON AIR CRASHES

probe investigation; investigate            CALL FOR STUDENT DRUGS PROBE

POLICE PROBE RACING SCANDAL

pull out withdraw; pull-out withdrawal US PULLS OUT OF ARMS TALKS

CHURCH CALLS FOR BRITISH PULL OUT FROM ULSTER

push (for) ask for, encourage          SCHOOLS PUSH FOR MORE CASH

quake earthquake                      HOUSES DAMAGED IN WELSH QUAKE

quit resign, leave                                 CHURCH LEADER QUITS

MINISTER TO QUIT GOVERNMENT

quiz question (verb)                            POLICE QUIZ MILLIONAIRE SUPERMARKET BOSS

raid enter and search; attack (noun and verb), rob, robbery

POLICE RAID DUCHESS’S FLAT

BIG GEMS RAID

rampage riot FOOTBALL FANS RAMPAGE THROUGH SEASIDE TOWNS

rap criticize                     DOCTORS RAP NEW MINISTRY PLANS

rates (bank) interest rates                        RATES RISE EXPECTED

record bigger than ever before             RECORD LOSS BY INSURANCE FIRM

riddle mystery                                              MISSING ENVOY RIDDLE: WOMAN HELD

rift division, disagreement  LAB0UR RIFT OVER DEFENCE POLICY

rock shock, shake    BANK SCANDAL ROCKS CITY

IRELAND ROCKED BY QUAKE

row noisy disagreement, quarrel    NEW ROW OVER PENSION CUTS

rule out reject the possibility of

PM RULES OUT AUTUMN ELECTION sack dismiss(al) from job

STRIKING POSTMEN FACE SACK

saga long-running news story NEW REVELATIONS IN BANK SAGA

scare public alarm, alarming rumour               TYPHOID SCARE IN SOUTHWEST

scoop win (prize etc)                           PENSIONER SCOOPS LOTTO FORTUNE

scrap throw out (as useless)               GOVERNMENT SCRAPS NEW ROAD PLANS

seek look for                               POLICE SEEK WITNESS TO KILLING

seize take (especially in police and customs searches)

POLICE SEIZE ARMS AFTER CAR CHASE

£3m DRUGS SEIZED AT AIRPORT

set to ready to; about to      INTEREST RATES SET TO RISE

shed get rid of      CAR FIRM TO SHED 5,000 JOBS

slam criticise violently          BISHOP SLAMS DEFENCE POLICY

slash cut, reduce drastically     GOVERNMENT TO SLASH HEALTH EXPENDITURE

slate criticize         PM SLA TES BISHOP

slay (AmE)murder              FREEWAY KILLER SLAYS SIX

slump fall (economic)              EXPORTS SLUMP CITY FEARS NEW SLUMP

snatch rob, robbery              BIG WAGES SNATCH IN WEST END

soar rise dramatically             IMPORTS SOAR FOR THIRD MONTH

spark cause (trouble) to start           REFEREE’S DECISION SPARKS RIOT

split disagree(ment)                       CABINET SPLIT ON PRICES POLICY

spree wild spending expedition

BUS DRIVER SPENDS £30,000 IN THREE-DAY CREDIT CARD SPREE

stake financial interest   JAPANESE BUY STAKE IN BRITISH AIRWAYS

storm angry public disagreement    STORM OVER NEW STRIKE LAW

storm out of leave angrily   TEACHERS’ LEADERS STORM OUT OF MEETING

stun surprise, shock    JOBLESS FIGURES STUN CITY

surge sudden increase; rise suddenly    SURGE IN JOBLESS FIGURES

swap exchange   HEART SWAP BOY BETTER

sway persuade    HOSPITAL PROTEST SWAYS MINISTERS

switch to change; a change      DEFENCE POLICY SWITCH

swoop to raid; a police raid   POLICE IN DAWN SWOOP ON DRUGS GANG

threat danger    TEACHERS’ STRIKE THREAT

toll number killed            QUAKE TOLL MAY BE £5,000

top (adj)senior, most important   TOP BANKER KIDNAPPED

top (verb)exceed   IMPORTS TOP LAST YEAR’S FIGURES

Tory Conservative     VICTORY FOR TORY MODERATES

trio three people     JAILBREAK TRIO RECAPTURED

troops soldiers    MORE TROOPS FOR BORDER AREA

UK The United Kingdom (of Great Britain and Northern Ireland)

BRUSSELS CRITICISES UK JAIL CONDITIONS

Ulster Northern Ireland           PM IN SECRET TRIP TO ULSTER

UN The United Nations    UN IN RED: CANNOT BALANCE BUDGET

urge encourage     GOVERNMENT URGED TO ACT ON POLLUTION

US: The United States of America

US URGED TO PULL OUT OF MIDDLE EAST

VAT :value added tax NEXT, VAT ON BABYFOOD?

Vow: promise EXILED PRESIDENT VOWS TO RETURN

walk out:  leave in protest CAR WORKERS WALK OUT OVER WAGE FREEZE

web :world-wide web, internet    WEB SHOPPING UP BY 50% IN TWO YEARS

wed :marry          BISHOP TO WED ACTRESS