In this post we take a look at some of the words and phrases that players might use while playing a match, the kind of language that you can hear – or use – on the pitch. There is also a quiz to help you practise the vocabulary below. Check out our glossary of footballing phrases here and if you have any suggestions or questions then contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Learn English Through Football Language Podcast: Vocabulary – Playing the Game
DF: Hello everyone, this is Damian from the Learning English Through Football team. I hope we are all doing well. Now on this short football language podcast we take a look at some of the words and phrases that we might hear on the football pitch while we were playing the game.
I remember playing football in Spain and then in Japan and Hong Kong and sometimes finding it difficult to communicate with team mates as I simply didn’t know the words that were used on the pitch while we were playing the game. Sometimes I could use an English phrase like ‘time‘ which was understood by all but it was not until I knew other words and phrases that I became more comfortable playing.
As you can imagine, players do not have much time during a game, so quick and clear communication with your team mates is key. For example, when you see an opponent coming towards one of your own players, you are not going to shout, ‘Be careful, there is a member of the opposing side approaching’. Instead, the phrase ‘man on‘ is used to warn your team mate. How about if you want to tell one of your players that he or she is free and has time to look up and pass or dribble with the ball? You could explain all of that to them but it’s much better to simply shout ‘time‘.
So, many of the phrases used by players in a game are similar to these expressions in that they are made up of only one or two words to help with this rapid communication; these kind of football instructions on the pitch need to be short and clear. One other thing to mention is that although you might know the meaning of the words ‘head‘, or ‘out‘ and ‘time‘ away from the football pitch, on it they tend to have different meanings.
Stinger: You are listening to languagecaster.com (in French).
DF: Yes, you are listening to languagecaster.com and that message was in French. Before we move on to describe some of the language you hear while playing, a quick reminder that there’s a transcript to this podcast which you can access by coming along to our site. And you can follow us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or you can drop us a line at: email@example.com.
Right, here is a list of some of the more common expressions you might need when playing football in an English-speaking environment. Next time you play a game how about trying to use some of them with your team mates?
Playing the Game
- Man on: This is a warning given to a team mate with the ball that an opponent is nearby; the meaning is to take care as someone is near you.
- To feet: This is used by one of your team mates when he/she wants you to pass to their feet, a simple pass on the ground. Sometimes it is simply shortened to feet.
- Chest: This is used by one of your team mates when he/she wants you to give them the ball on their chest. This expression might be heard at a throw-in, for example.
- On my head: This is used by one of your team mates when they want you to give them the ball on their head. This expression might be heard at a throw-in and sometimes it is shortened to head.
- Time: This is what you can say to one of your team mates when he/she receives the ball and has time to move with the ball – it is the opposite of man on. Sometimes we might use the word ‘free‘ which has the same meaning – you are free to turn or move forward with the ball.
- Square: This is what you say to a team mate when you are standing to their left or right, i.e. beside them and you want them to pass to you. You can also say square it, where ‘it’ means the ball.
- Push up: You can hear this phrase when one of the defenders tells the rest of the defence to move forward and away from their goal. It is often used to catch people offside. This is similar to the phrase get out – another instruction from a defender to their team mates.
- Through ball: A through ball is one played quickly to a team mate who is running in on goal. Usually this is hit first time and can become an effective weapon to break down a defence.
- One-two: This is sometimes known as a wall pass and means to give and then quickly receive a pass from one of your team mates. It can be an effective tactic in crowded areas to allow players to get free.
- Easy ball: This expression is used to tell your team mate to play a simple rather than a difficult pass as your team wants to keep possession. Don’t give away the ball! Don’t lose it!
- Get out: Often shouted by one of the defenders to the rest of their defence to try and push back the opposing attackers or to catch them offside. This is similar to push up or push out and is sometimes simply used as ‘out’.
- Mark (up): This is said by players when defending a corner, free kick or other set piece and means to ensure that an opponent is not free, in other words the instruction here is to get close to them.
- First time: Don’t trap or control the ball, hit it when it arrives. Again this is an effective instruction as it allows the player with the ball to make a quick decision – maybe to hit a first-time ball or pass to a team mate.
- One-touch: Similar to first time in that the player usually has no time to control the ball so he or she needs to pass it or shoot quickly.
- Have a pop: If you hear this instruction from a team mate it means that you can shoot – maybe your team mates can see that you are in space and have time to shoot. Sometimes we might just hear the word ‘shoot‘ instead.
- Hold: This is said to a team mate who has the ball that he or she should keep it a little longer, don’t pass it just yet. This is particularly used for telling a centre forward to hold on to possession. Sometimes we hear the phrase ‘hold-up play‘ or ‘hold up the ball‘, which is when a forward, with their back to goal, keeps the ball to allow their team mates to move up the pitch.
Stinger: You are listening to languagecaster.com (in Irish).
DF: OK, that’s it for this short podcast – we hope you have enjoyed our look at some of the words and phrases from the pitch. Let us know if you hear any of these phrases or maybe if you know how to say them in another language – drop us a line at: firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also post any of your examples in the comments section below – we’ve got quite a few already there You can also check out languagecaster’s football glossary which has a huge selection of football vocabulary. And we’ll have more football phrases to talk about in our next podcast. Enjoy all the football this week and we’ll see you again soon. Bye bye.