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Statement : Govt asked about safety of northeast community.

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    It's not a sentence. It could mean at least 2-3 different things depending on context. Accordingly, it could even be either active voice or passive voice. – Kris Feb 12 '14 at 7:03
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    Can't tell. Headlines are often shortened, and any ambiguity might be intentional in order to entice you to read the story underneath it. – Andrew Leach Feb 12 '14 at 7:04
  • so why news paper used this type of headline. I think it should be "Govt has been asked about safety of northeast community". – user3109812 Feb 12 '14 at 7:10
  • Ink is money ... so less ink means more money in their pockets. At this point, its also a style of writing for journalism headlines. – virmaior Feb 12 '14 at 7:45
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Why headlines are the way they are is usually very simple:

  • They need to be concise (there is limited space)
  • They need to be catchy (make people want to read the article)

There are two possible sentences that could have lead to this headline:

The Government has asked about the safety of the northeast community.
The Government has been asked about the safety of the northeast community.

Obviously all the articles were dropped, and part of the verb. Also, the word government has been abbreviated. This definitely makes the headline more concise.

Now, you are observing very correctly, we do no longer know if the government was asked, or if they did the asking. You will have to read the article to be sure. And hey, that is what the headline maker wanted: make you read the article. So, this headline is successful on both counts!

Now, even without reading the article, we can make an educated guess as to who did the asking.

If the government would be doing the asking, I would assume a present tense. After all, if the government asked something, and they have answers, I would not expect to be informed about their asking, I would expect to be informed about what they are doing or have done with the answer that they got. Of course, if someone has claimed tat they did not show any interest, it might be news-worthy to tell us that they asked.

However, if the government is asking now, the headline could simply sate "Govt. asks", even shorter than it is now.

So, without being able to be sure without reading the article, I would guess that someone, or some organisation asked the government about a situation; the implication being that the government now finds itself obliged to come up with information that it did not earlier share on its own accord.

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