I have a question on the usage of infinitives in news titles. While infinitives are seemingly used to indicate that something will be happening in the near future in news headlines (as discussed in this question: Infinitive in news headlines), in this headline, it just looks confusing for me:

“Buddy, first dog to test positive for COVID-19 in the U.S., has died”

Can someone please help me understand how the phrase “to test positive” is used in this context?

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    Words are often elided in news headlines. The full sentence would be “Buddy, who was the first dog to test positive for COVID-19 in the U.S., has died.” – Hot Licks Jul 31 '20 at 1:25
  • The "future" (be) to V construction is common in headlines, but it's by no means the only kind of infinitive. First dog to test positive is a relative infinitive clause; it's equivalent to a tensed relative clause in first dog that tested positive. – John Lawler Jul 31 '20 at 1:48
  • I can see that in the examples you’ve used in your answer, the “to do” phrases were used to indicate the purpose or objective in the sentence (as in “the man to talk to”); they are not related to any indication on tense. But I think in this sentence, the fact of ‘tested positive’ happened before the death of the dog. I wonder how the infinitive here can point out the sequence of events? – Lance_C Jul 31 '20 at 2:22

In this case it is not an infinitive describing the future but rather a description of the subject. It is saying that Buddy is the first dog that tested positive and not "Buddy is a first dog and will test positive soon", which wouldn't make much sense.

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    Is that a grammatically common manner in forming a sentence or it’s just something that journalists would do for a headline only? – Lance_C Jul 31 '20 at 1:34
  • Common, I think. The first runner to break the four-minute mile, the first man to land on the moon. – Xanne Jul 31 '20 at 7:20

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