Understanding Verbs in News Stories

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19 September, 2019

Suppose you are reading an American news website. You look at an article headline but are unsure of what the story is about.

You try reading it anyway. Yet, some of the central ideas remain unclear.

Many English-language newspapers in the U.S. and other places use a writing style that is different in some ways from others.

Take, for example, the use of verbs.

Often, verbs in the news can look simple, like "face," "fuel" or "drive." But some English verbs have several meanings, and news stories may use a "newsy" meaning, which can be tricky for the untrained reader.

Today on Everyday Grammar, we will explore how a few verbs are used in the news, with excerpts from VOA Learning English stories.

Verb: face

Let's start with the verb "face."

In the news, the verb "face" is often used to say a person, group of people or thing must deal with a difficulty or issue. A person or people might face a serious health issue, for example. A city might face a shortage of teachers.

And, the planet faces environment problems. That is exactly what a recent story about student climate activists explained. In it, a leader from an environmental group used the verb "face" to say this about students:

"There's a lot of passion there and a strong desire to deal with the problems facing the environment," she said.

The person is saying students care a lot about the planet, which is being affected by environmental issues.

Another story talks about Indonesia's president announcing the move of the country's capital to the island of Borneo. Listen to a short excerpt from that story:

The goal is to move the national government outside of Jakarta, which is facing problems of overcrowding and pollution.

The speaker is saying that Jakarta, the current capital, is dealing with problems such as overcrowding and pollution.

Verb: fuel

The verb "fuel" is another newsy verb. It often appears in stories on political issues, social movements and national or worldwide trends.

"Fuel" can mean to give support or strength to something or to provide the conditions for something to happen.

An August story on Hong Kong's protests explained that Facebook and Twitter had accused China of spreading disinformation. Here's a line from the story with the verb "fuel."

Some ads described Hong Kong protesters as being anti-China and trying to fuel violence.

If someone or something is trying to "fuel" violence, it is attempting to cause or worsen it.

And a September story on a U.N. effort to protect the world's religious sites said this about U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres:

Guterres has often warned that hate speech is fueling intolerance around the world.

Hate speech is abusive or threatening speech or writing that shows prejudice against a group of people. Guterres warned that such speech is causing or worsening intolerance.

Verb: drive

Now let's talk about "drive."

The usual meaning of "drive" has to do with using vehicles. But in the news, "drive" can take on other meanings. It can mean to cause a person or thing to do something.

Listen to this headline from a story about marijuana use and breathalyzer tests:

Marijuana's Growth in US Drives Breathalyzer Test Technology

In other words, increased marijuana use in the United States has caused or led to the development of breathalyzer technology.

You might also see the phrasal verb "drive up" in the news. The meaning is similar to "drive" but "drive up" relates to causing an amount or price to increase.

In the following example, a lawyer in Vietnam talks about how companies are moving to Vietnam from China to avoid the U.S.-China trade war. He explained that this change is helping Vietnam's economy. Have a listen:

"It's really happening, so that's going to be driving up prices and driving up GDP a bit," Burke said.

Verb: go / move forward

And finally we move to another phrasal verb.

The verb "go forward" means to proceed, or continue, with something, such as a plan, ruling or decision.

A recent story talked about a U.S. Supreme Court ruling. It requires asylum seekers to ask for asylum in countries they pass through before reaching the United States. Here's how the story uses the verb "go forward":

The Supreme Court's decision on Wednesday permits the new rule to go forward as legal action against it continues to go through the court system.

In other words, this rule will proceed.

Another phrasal verb - "move forward" – has the same meaning and is also popular among news writers.

Let's look at a recent story about the possibility of Britain leaving the European Union. Pay attention to how it uses the words "move forward":

Johnson said he will move forward with Brexit even if there is no official agreement with the EU.

In other words, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will proceed with the plan to separate Britain from the European Union.

Well, we hope this program has fueled your interest in understanding the news better as you go forward in learning English.

I'm Alice Bryant.

Alice Bryant wrote this story for Learning English. Ashley Thompson was the editor.


Words in This Story

headline – n. the title written in large letters over a story in a newspaper

style – n. a particular way in which something is done, created, or performed

excerpt – n. a small part of a longer written work

challenge – n. a difficult task or problem

passion – n. a strong feeling of enthusiasm or excitement for something or about doing something

trend – n. a way of behaving or proceeding that is becoming more common

site – n. the place where something, such as a building, is located

breathalyzer – n. a device that is used to measure drug levels present in a person's body

intolerance – n. unwillingness to accept views, beliefs, or behavior that differ from one's own.

prejudice – n. an unfair feeling of dislike for a person or group because of race, sex, religion, or something else

GDP – n. a measure of the market value of all the goods and services produced in a country