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The present tense and the past passive participle have long (for more than a century) been used in headlines to refer to events in the immediate past:

  • Governor Smith vetoes bill
  • Three killed in collision

But lately I've been noticing the present active participle a lot: On NBC evening news probably more than a dozen times each night, not just the anchor Lester Holt or Kate Snow but all of the reporters say things like The Centers for Disease control announcing new precautions against the corona virus, Two more candidates dropping out of the race today, etc. I haven't seen this in writing, but every broadcast news report on TV uses this form. I've seen it on CNN too.

Could this have been around for centuries without my noticing it? It seems that only in recent weeks I've starting noticing it constantly.

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    AFAIK, this is not a new phenomenon at all.
    – JK2
    Mar 11, 2020 at 23:36
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    This is simply the present continuous tense, with the word "are" elided, for headline purposes. Headline writers have long taken licence to achieve brevity and impact.
    – WS2
    Mar 11, 2020 at 23:41
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    @WS2 I don't think it's necessarily "simply the present continuous tense, with the word "are" elided," or "for headline purposes" or both. In the two example sentences, announcing and dropping could have been used instead of announced and dropped, and they could have been in the middle of news reports.
    – listeneva
    Mar 11, 2020 at 23:48
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    I think we need more context. They sound to me like part of a list of bulleted items.
    – WS2
    Mar 12, 2020 at 19:15
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    Might they not be delayed and unusually offset absolute constructions? << 'There are further developments in the race to become President of Freedonia./.... Two more candidates dropping out of the race today.' >> Could one tell in speech whether there's a comma or a full stop etc there? Apr 8, 2022 at 15:56

1 Answer 1

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As discussed in the comments, in the context of a headline, this would simply be a case of dropping forms of the verb to be (a common feature of headlinese): “The Centers for Disease control is/are announcing new precautions against the corona virus” and “Two more candidates are dropping out of the race today”.

When I first wrote this answer, I missed the fact that you in fact were asking specifically about spoken usage. I find it hard to interpret "The Centers for Disease control announcing new precautions against the corona virus" and "Two more candidates dropping out of the race today" out of context: do you hear people saying these as entire sentences? What are the preceding and following sentences? Depending on the context, "Two more candidates dropping out of the race today" could stand for "(There were) two more candidates dropping out of the race today" with conversational deletion of the first two words.

If the speaker is introducing a video or another speaker, The Centers for Disease control announcing new precautions against the corona virus" could stand for "(This is) the Centers for Disease control announcing new precautions against the corona virus".

If used as part of a longer sentence, the -ing words might be gerunds: "We'll be talking about the Centers for Disease control announcing new precautions against the corona virus". I assume this isn't the usage that you're talking about, but I'm just trying to imagine situations where people would say this, since it isn't something I've noticed.

Without knowing the context, I don't know what phenomenon explains the examples given in the question.

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  • But this is not correct. When an new broadcasters says "President Biden vetoing the bill", it's about something that already happened, not something that is happening. If they say "President Biden is vetoing the bill" then it's about something that's happening. Apr 9, 2022 at 1:24
  • @MichaelHardy: I see. Given that you started the question with references to headlines, I actually missed that you were specifically asking about a spoken usage. I'm not sure I recognize what you're talking about; what is the context for someone saying "The Centers for Disease control announcing new precautions against the corona virus" or "Two more candidates dropping out of the race today"? Specific links to examples would help.
    – herisson
    Apr 9, 2022 at 1:44

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