I read in this source that the past participle phrase is used in a passive sense, in which the action is done to the subject described by the phrase. It gives this example:

Exhausted by the morning's work, I got myself a cup of coffee and sat down.

But I've come across this news headline which seems to contradict that:

Bomb explosion hit Magallanes City, killed 7 and 9 others wounded.

Here, the past participle phrase killed 5 and 28 others wounded is done by the subject Bomb explosion. The rule(?) above says that the subject of the sentence must not be the doer of the action in the past participle phrase. Instead, it must be the receiver.

So I think it must be corrected to use the present participle to describe that the doer is the subject:

Bomb explosion hit Magallanes City, killing 7 and wounding 9 others.

Do you think the original headline is correct? How about my revision?

  • 2
    Headlines don't follow strict rules - they're governed more by space considerations than syntax. But I'd have expected something more like "BOMB EXPLOSION HIT MAGALLANES CITY: 7 killed, 9 wounded", where what follows the colon (or line break, or whatever) is a reduced form of "7 were killed, 9 were wounded". Aug 5, 2013 at 16:36

1 Answer 1


First and foremost, it should be noted that news[paper] headlines are usually not useful examples of valid grammatical constructions. Having said that, OP's example...

Bomb explosion hit Magallanes City, killed 7 and 9 others wounded.

...is a particularly egregious construction (I think it's truly awful). Very likely the writer wasn't what I would call a native Anglophone in the first place. The reason it's so bad is that killed and wounded are effectively being used as different "parts of speech" (the first is closer to a verb: the bomb killed 7, but the second looks more like an adjectival past participle: 9 were wounded [by the bomb]).

Having said that, I don't see much point in ELL discussing how headlines could be better phrased. OP's suggested alternative probably is "better", but with an article (probably A) in front, it would never be considered "grammatical" in normal speech/writing.

OP's notion that the subject of the sentence must not be the doer of the action in the past participle phrase might have some relevance in this exact construction, but there's nothing wrong with any of...

A bomb explosion that hit Magallanes, killing 7 and wounding 9 others, was terrorist-inspired.
A bomb explosion that hit Magallanes and killed 7 and wounded 9 others, was terrorist-inspired.
The bomb that killed the US ambassador to Libya was terrorist-inspired.
The bomb that exploded in Benghazi, killing the US ambassador to Libya, was terrorist-inspired.

  • Indeed. It seems like: "...killed 7 and wounded 9" would have been a better construct, to the point where I wonder if the paper has some kind of policy against ending a headline with a digit.
    – J.R.
    Aug 5, 2013 at 22:39
  • @J.R.: If that were the case, surely "...7 killed and 9 wounded" would be acceptable. It's the mixing of the two modes that gets up my nose, regardless of which way round it's written. Aug 5, 2013 at 22:54
  • Good point. Well, at least we both agree it's awful. 8^\
    – J.R.
    Aug 5, 2013 at 22:57
  • In your second and third examples the -ed forms are past-tense verbs, not past participles. Aug 6, 2013 at 0:28
  • @StoneyB: I don't think I said otherwise (well, I didn't mean to, anyway). My point is that "Bomb in Magallanes: 7 killed, 9 wounded", say, is a perfectly credible headline, under which the more "grammatical" article text might refer to Dr XYZ, "...who treated 4 wounded" (which definitely looks like a noun to me). OP's headline could have reasonably ended with "...7 dead and 9 wounded", but actually it's more akin to "...dead 7 and 9 wounded". Which just looks like a weird conjunction of disparate forms to me. Aug 6, 2013 at 13:41

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