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Manassas Ends Hope for a Short War (VOA Learning English)

What does ‘Ends’ mean? It seems not ‘Manassas Ends’ is a proper name. I guess it would rather be meaning: ‘the last part of Manassas.’ But not having the geographical, historical background or proper lexical meaning, I’m wondering which meaning is right.

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    It is a verb meaning: bring something to its conclusion. Example: End this nonsense now! In contrast, hope is a noun! – oerkelens Oct 2 '14 at 8:55
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This is , which is often so elliptical that it gives rise to ‘garden path’ sentences like this. DamkerngT has a very good answer about headlinese here.

As oerkelens says, ends is the verb, cast in the ‘historical present’ which is often found in journalism, and hope is a noun, its object. The sentence could be expanded thus:

The Confederate victory at Manassas ended Union hopes for a short war.

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    @Listenever This doesn't add anything to oerkelens' comment, but I had to answer it because I was named after the Gen. Jackson named in the story! – StoneyB on hiatus Oct 2 '14 at 10:32
  • Do you mean, you are the descendant of him? (If you are, I'm very pleased to see anyone who is related directly to one named in a history. I've not met anyone even in my country who is a descendant of anyone.) – Listenever Oct 2 '14 at 11:39
  • @Listenever No, I'm not descended; but my mother was a historian of the Civil War and admired Stonewall Jackson greatly. – StoneyB on hiatus Oct 2 '14 at 11:41
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    Headlines can often be misleading. One of my favorites, maybe you've seen it around, was an article about the leader of Iraq attempting to acquire weapons, that had the headline, "Iraqi Head Seeks Arms". – Jay Oct 2 '14 at 13:50
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    @Listenever Actually, my wife's a Lit scholar, not a linguist; she just needs a lot of languages for her job. Especially Old and Middle English, because she's a mediaevalist. – StoneyB on hiatus Oct 2 '14 at 21:37
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It is a verb

Sentences take the structure [Subject] [Verb] [Object]:

You have interpreted it like this (I cheated with "for" but it's not relevant for this answer):
[Manassas Ends] [Hope for] [a Short War] (i.e. "Manassas Ends" expect the war to be short)

But as you say, "Manassas Ends" is not a proper name, and does not make sense as a noun.

The correct interpretation here is:
[Manassas] [Ends] [Hope for a Short War] (i.e. "Manassas" does NOT expect the war to be short)

This actually has the opposite meaning! It means that Manassas DID hope that the war would be short, but that it has ended that hope (i.e. now it expects a long war).

  • You are still attributing hope or expectation to Manassas, as if Manassas were a person. Manassas is the name of a specific battle. Battles do not hope or expect. – user6951 Oct 2 '14 at 12:58
  • You're right; I have no idea what Manassas is. The main problem was the confusion of "Ends" and "Hope" regarding which was the verb and I was answering the question about what "Ends" means in this context. – Johno Oct 2 '14 at 13:22
  • Context would probably have made clear that "Manassas" is an event, specifically a battle. Therefore, "ends" should be interpreted in its causative sense: the battle of Manassas caused the end of hope for a short war. The people doing the hoping are not specified. – zwol Oct 2 '14 at 17:51
  • (The American Civil War and its key battles are thoroughly covered in American high-school-level history classes; one native adult resident of the USA, speaking to another, can just say "Manassas" and expect their interlocutor to understand a reference to this particular battle. The article cited is on a learning-English site and should not have assumed this context, but it's an understandable error given a probably-American-born-and-raised author.) – zwol Oct 2 '14 at 17:55
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To understand this sentence it's necessary to know from context that Manassas refers to an event, specifically, the first major battle of the American Civil War. The article cited does make this clear if you keep reading, but the headline is sloppy for a learning-English site — it should not assume that readers already know this. (A newspaper with a primarily-American audience can assume readers already know this, and that's probably why the mistake was made.)

Because "Manassas" is an event, the next word, "ends", should be understood as the main verb of the sentence, and it should be understood in the sense "causes the end of". "Hope for a short war" is the direct object, the thing whose end was caused.

A less terse version:

[The [first] battle of] Manassas ended hope [by the general public] for a short war [sp. the American Civil War].

(recast in the past tense because I am no longer describing this event as if it were current news)

(Manassas is also the name of a place, and the battle has that name because it occurred close to that place. However, the Civil War is covered in detail in US history courses and still has immense influence on our collective imaginations, so "Manassas" without qualification or context refers only to the battle. Adult native speakers of American English who don't live in that area would generally say "the city of Manassas" or "Manassas, Virginia" if they meant the place.)

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I read it as: Manassas ends hope for a short war

The words have been capitalized, but not as proper nouns, but instead to draw attention to them (often done in titles). "Ends" is here the verb "to end" in present time. Could alternatively be read as: Menassas stops hope for a short war.

  • Stops would probably not ever be used, because we do not use the word stop in that context. – user6951 Oct 2 '14 at 12:52
  • You are right, I think I meant it could read as that. – Kitalda Oct 3 '14 at 8:27

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