1

I can't wrap my head around some English news titles with infinitives (I have tried to Google this, hopelessly).

Some examples:

  • Russia's Head Athletics Coach to Step Down After Doping Revelations¹
  • Russia to Create Government Job to Fight Doping in Sport²
  • Russian Olympic Champion Kaniskina to Quit Executive Role Over Doping Scandal³

What is this use of infinitives called, and what does it mean?

4
  • 3
    Try adding an "is going to" in front of the infinitive: "Russia's Head Athletics Coach is going to step down After Doping Revelations" Headlines try to compress as much meaning into as few words as possible so they are nearly always going to be missing words that would be present in everyday conversation.
    – Jim
    Jan 23 '15 at 19:14
  • Probly is expected to Infinitive, it was announced. This is what's used when an official announcement is, um, announced, and there is comment, blowback, or explanation. It's from the construction He is to leave tomorrow, which means 'His departure is scheduled for tomorrow, but he's nevertheless still here'. Jan 23 '15 at 19:20
  • Answered at the 'The form of future implication: to be [. . .]' thread. (1) and (3) above are examples of be-deletion; the terse style used in headlines has been dubbed headlinese. Be-deletion also occurs in (2) (Russia is to Create ...). The second usage is short (but very common) for 'aimed at [fighting]'; elsewhere it could be short for 'in order to'. Jan 23 '15 at 19:43
  • There's also the gerund used on NBC News on TV: "President Biden announcing today that he is appointing John X. Doe to his cabinet." In standard English one could say "President Biden announced today that he is appointing John X. Doe to his cabinet." NBC News, or maybe TV news in general, has invented a new journalese verb tense. Jan 24 '21 at 21:20
4

In the days of print media headlines had to be short to fit over the column or columns of text in the article. In order to make them shorter editors often leave out words that most native speakers could intuit from context. So the full headlines for your example would be as follows:

Russia's Head Athletics Coach is About to Step Down After Doping Revelations.

Russia is going to Create a Government Job to Fight Doping in Sport.

Russian Olympic Champion Kaniskina is About to Quit his Executive Role Over the Doping Scandal

There are other potentially correct ways to write the full version but they would have similar meaning.

4
  • So it usually means just intentions, right? Are there any cases where we should add "have to" or "must"? Or it simply depends on the context of the news? Jan 23 '15 at 19:17
  • 1
    It always means what will happen, or what is predicted to happen, in the future. Jan 23 '15 at 19:30
  • In other words, it's a way of using an untensed infinitive clause to refer to a future event. Replacing to with either modal will or the tensed periphrastic version is going to does not change the meaning at all. So this is something of an elliptical future.
    – tchrist
    Jan 23 '15 at 22:31
  • "is going to" or "is about to" could also be written "will", but "to" is shorter Jun 14 '16 at 18:30

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.