Football Language Podcast: (to) Take On

Take OnFor this week’s short football language podcast, we look at the verb phrase ‘to take on‘. Check out our football glossary and football cliches pages for hundreds more explanations of the language of soccer. If you have any questions, suggestions or comments then please email us at: (DB=Damon)

Listening Report: Take On

DB: You’re listening to Hi there everyone, and welcome to languagecaster and another short podcast on the language of football. My name’s Damon, I’m based in Tokyo, which is enjoying some wonderful early spring weather. As you will know if you are a regular listener, I’m one of the languagecaster team, the other being Damian, who is based in London. We both hope you are all well and enjoying the football wherever you are listening in world.

Now today, I’ll be talking about a verb phrase, to take on, but before I start, here’s a message in Danish.

Stinger: You’re listening to (in Danish)

To Take On

Yes, you are listening to, and thank you Mads in Copenhagen for that message. If we have any Finnish, Norwegian or Swedish listeners, maybe they could send in a recording of ‘You are listening to’ in their language to We’re trying to expand our collection of languages!

The Grammar

OK, first let’s look at how to use today’s phrase grammatically. The verb phrase can be split, so take someone on, or take something on. The verb ‘take’ is followed by a noun and then the preposition ‘on’. It can also be used without splitting the verb and preposition, take on someone, take on something. This is more common with the pattern ‘take on someone‘.

The Meaning

Now, what about the meaning? The first pattern, with take something on, means to try something, to attempt something or to take responsibility. The second pattern, to take someone on is slightly different, meaning to challenge someone, to battle against someone, to try to beat someone.


Let’s take a look at some examples. I was watching Sheffield United versus Aston Villa in the Premier League today and I heard the commentators describe a goal like this: Baldock, I think he’s taken a shot on. But McGoldrick doesn’t give it up. He keeps running. He’s onside and he gets a bit of luck, in off the underside of the bar… So, Baldock tried  a shot, he attempted a shot. The commentator said, he took a shot on, and a teammate, McGoldrick got on the end of the missed shot and scored.

And here’s an example from a BBC match report – Ross County versus Rangers:

‘Mullin was growing in confidence. Another run through the middle, this time he took the shot on and McGregor had to tip over.’

Ok, and now an example of take someone on, again from the BBC. This time a match report – Tottenham versus Manchester United:

“He (Bergwijn) just took on the defence and Harry Maguire did not know whether to come or go and he left him for dead. What a finish. Before David de Gea could react it was practically in the back of the net.”

So, Bergwijn was challenged by the defence, the defence was in front of him, but he beat them and managed to shoot and score. He took on the defence and then took the shot on and scored.

Other Phrases

And just before we go, that example from the BBC also has another wonderful football phrase in it – to leave for dead. If you leave someone for dead, you go past them easily. It can mean a player simply runs much faster than the other player, so they are way behind. It can also mean a player feints, or uses ball skills quickly to go past the opponent. In both cases the defending player looks a little silly.

Good bye

OK, we’ve talked about the verb phrase take on and how it can be split – take a player on, or not – take on a player. And we finished with to leave someone for dead, which you can see is also a split verb phrase -the verb ‘leave’ plus the person plus ‘for dead’.

And that brings us to the end of this short podcast., If you like what we do, tell your friends or support us via You can follow us on Twitter and most social media platforms, and you can get in touch us via And remember there is a transcript to this show on our website.

Thanks for listening. Stay safe, enjoy the football, and we’ll be back soon with some more football language to talk about.


Check out our glossary of footballing phrases here and if you have any suggestions, contact us at

Contact Us

    Subscribe to
    Learn English Through Football

    Or subscribe with your favorite app by using the address below


    I was born and brought up near Chester in the north west of England. I have always loved playing and talking about sport, especially football!
    Google | Facebook | Twitter | Mail | Website

    Join the discussion

    This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

    • Hello. What does “ask questions” mean in football/soccer context?

      Chelsea continue to try to ask questions of this City defence. They have scored eight goals from corners this season, and have another chance now but Ruben Dias rises to head clear. He’s been immense at the back.

      69mins: Newcastle 0-1 Leicester Matty Longstaff puts in a very tempting ball after great work from Jacob Murphy on the counter attack. Newcastle asking questions of the Leicester defence.

      85 min Dezeko asks questions of Ashdown in the Leeds goal with a rasping angled shot from the corner of the box. It was finding its way inside the near post until the goalkeeper got good strong hands to it.

      • Thanks for the question Sandara.

        To ‘ask a question’ is to test someone, see if they can perform well.

        If a striker shoots on goal, they ‘ask the goalkeeper a question’; they test the goalkeeper’s skill.

        If a team ‘asks a question’ of another team’s defence, they are attacking and testing the otehr team; the other team is under pressure.

        Great question!

      • Thanks for the question Sandara.

        To ‘ask a question’ is to test someone, see if they can perform well.

        If a striker shoots on goal, they ‘ask the goalkeeper a question’; they test the goalkeeper’s skill.

        If a team ‘asks a question’ of another team’s defence, they are attacking and testing the other team; the other team is under pressure.

        Great question!


    Learn English Through FootballWelcome to the website that helps students interested in football improve their English language skills. Football fans can practise with lots of free language resources, including football-language podcasts and our huge football-language glossary.

    Recent Forum Posts

    • Back in the contest

      I hear the commentator say "in the contest" when they s...

      By Dwi , 17 hours ago

    • high

      What does "high" actually mean in football? Spurs 2-1...

      By Dwi , 20 hours ago

    • Rise/get up/tower above

      What do the phrases in bold mean?Melbourne Victory 1-2 ...

      By Dwi , 20 hours ago