Football Vocabulary: How to Say Football Scores in English

Football Vocabulary: How to Say Football Scores in English

This is part one of a series on football vocabulary in English. If you want more, check out 9 People in Football (And What They Do) and Football Vocabulary: 23 Essential Words and Phrases.

“What’s the score?”

You might hear this a lot in the next couple of months as everyone goes football mad over the World Cup.

Or at least until their team gets knocked out.

But how do you answer the question “What’s the score?”

It seems easy, doesn’t it?

But there are very specific ways to talk about football scores in English. Here they are:

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How to Say Football Scores in English:

A Draw

How to say football scores in English: one all / It was a draw. / Scotland drew with England.

OK. So no one won the match. How annoying!

We can describe this result generally:

It was a draw.

We can also be a little more specific and mention the teams:

Scotland drew with England.

Or we can say it with numbers. There’s a rule for describing draws: we just say the number and add “all.”

one all

two all

three all

… or eighteen all — if you’re watching a children’s match.

How to Say Football Scores in English:

No Goals

How to say football scores in English: nil nil / It was a draw. / Scotland drew with England.

But be careful. For some secret reason known only to the football masters, we don’t say “zero all.”

For a start, when talking about football scores, we don’t say “zero,” but we say “nil” instead.

Secondly, we don’t do the “all” trick, but just say it how it’s written:

nil nil

How to Say Football Scores in English:

One Team Wins

How to say football scores in English: two nil / two nil to Scotland / Scotland beat England two nil. / a win for Scotland / a defeat for England

Say the larger number first — and remember to say “nil” instead of “zero.”

If you want to say who won the match, you can add “to” and the name of the winning team:

two nil to Scotland

You can also use the verbs “beat” or “defeat”:

Scotland beat England two nil.

Scotland defeated England two nil.

Or you can forget about the score and just say who won.

You can use a verb:

Scotland won.

Or a noun:

a win for Scotland

If you’re feeling more like focusing on the embarrassment for England, which you might, then you can focus on the fact that they lost, again with a verb:

England lost.

Or a noun:

a defeat for England

How to Say Football Scores in English:

One Team Wins (By a Lot)

How to say football scores in English: six nil / Scotland thrashed England. / a resounding victory for Scotland / a crushing defeat for England

In the unlikely event of this score, there’s another verb we can use to show the huge difference between the number of goals.

It really shows how amazingly Scotland won and how badly and embarrassingly England lost.

That verb is “thrash.” Yep — like thrash metal. But with football.

We tend not to add the score with this one, just focusing on how dramatic the result is:

Scotland thrashed England!

You can also speak more generally about the results, especially dramatic ones like these, with words like “victory”:

a victory for Scotland

Or “triumph”:

a triumph for Scotland

The word “resounding” is also used with extreme results. You can use it for the winners:

a resounding victory for Scotland

For losers, we can use the phrase “crushing defeat”:

a crushing defeat for England

OK. Now you know how to say football scores in English.

As the World Cup enters its first stages, listen out for that question: “What was the score?”

You’ll know how to answer.

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36 thoughts on “Football Vocabulary: How to Say Football Scores in English

  1. Thank you very much for those “football scores”phrases. I find them really helpful because they aren´t normally taught at school or included in textbooks.

  2. Thanks a lot. next week we are having a summer camp and I was planning to make football one of the topics to teach – given the World Cup. So it is absolutely great and useful.

  3. I love that Scotland won some of the matches in these examples! Thanks for letting us win for once! We have a hard enough time just qualifying for competitions, never mind winning the matches!

  4. Excellent post, as always. By the way, it seems to me that you aren’t a huge fan of England Right?
    Taking into account that Scotland don’t participate in this Football World Cup, which national team you root for?

    1. Hi Lucas,

      Haha! Well noticed!

      Actually, it’s not that I don’t like England, but more that I love supporting the underdog.

      There’s a game I play with my partner sometimes: we name two national football teams and decide which one we’d root for if they had a match. The idea is to always go for the underdog. So I don’t support a particular team but it just changes from match to match.

    1. Hi Rakib.

      Almost — We’d say “We were ahead 2-0” (no “of”).

      We only need “of” when we’re saying who we’re beating: “We were ahead of England 2-0.”

      Otherwise, good work!

    1. Hi Carlos,

      Good question:

      If the match has finished, it’s best to say “What was the score?”

      Why past simple? Another good question!

      When we’re asking for something specific in the past, we should use the past simple, not the present perfect, even if we have that feeling of the effect still being with us in the present.

      That’s why we’d have a dialogue like this:

      “Damn! I’ve lost my keys!”
      “Oh no! Where did you leave them?”

      See what happened? As soon as it got specific, the dialogue switched to the past simple.

      Hope that helps! 🙂

  5. It helps a lot. I work as a P.E teacher in a Spanish Secondary School. When teaching CLIL groups I have to come up with ideas to get the students engaged in the lessons while help them improve their speaking skills. So I’m going to stick signs on the gym’s wall to help them comment on the match scores right after finishing 5 minute sport matches. I didn’t know whether to write “What’s been the score?” or “What was the score?”.
    Nedlless to say both your website and your answer are really helpful .
    Thank you very much Gabriel!

    1. That’s such a great idea for a CLIL PE class!

      I’m not much of a sporty type, so if you have any other areas of sporty English that you’re not sure about, let me know! I can see if we can do a post about it.

      Thanks, Carlos! 🙂

  6. Hi Gabriel,
    My interest in football vocabulary brought me here, and I’m absolutely happy to have discovered such a fabulous source of information – professional, reliable and at the same time funny and enjoyable. Thank you so much!
    Can I ask you a question? In Russian, when people speak about football and assess separate actions, they say something like “they have different weights”. Sounds silly in English, I’m afraid. I understand I can say that some action is awarded 1/2/3 points or that it’s worth 1/3 points. But is there any special word or an expression to describe this – sort of quality of the action – similar to what we have in Russian?

    1. Hi Tim.

      Good question! But also a tricky one.

      Are you talking about a way of casually assessing the players? As if you were at home watching the match with your mates?

      If that’s the case, then I don’t think we have any particular phrases that relate to the Russian ones you’re describing.

      We say things like “good move!” or “nice tackle!”

      But, as far as I know, we don’t award points to players.

      However, if anyone reading this knows otherwise, I’d love to hear your input!

  7. Hi Gabriel.
    Thank you for your attention.
    What I was talking about is not those remarks we make watching the game. I meant the way the players’ actions are assessed by professionals. And after I had written to you I came across an article on the internet, where the word ‘weight’ is used just the way it is used in Russian (if I get it right 🙂
    Here is an example from that article: “Thus, the PSV for a pass is the sum of the feature weights for its corresponding origin, destination and origin-destination pair.” (PSV here stands for Pass Shot Value)
    But maybe it’s just the way these authors do it?

    1. Wow! You went in deep!

      I haven’t actually come across this expression before, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. I’m not the biggest football fan in the world.

      It does seem that the use in the document you sent me is quite an academic one, so it might just be used in that context.

      I’m afraid I can’t give you a clearer answer than that, but when I run into one of my football-mad friends, I’ll ask them and see what they say.


      1. I’m not a great football fun either, I love English and enjoy your lessons here immensely.
        Thank you, Gabriel!

    1. Good question.

      I think we use it when two teams are tied: “The score was one up.” meaning “The teams were drawing.”

      This isn’t something I’m totally familiar with and there’s scarce evidence of it online, implying that it’s not that common.

      Can you remember the example that you heard it in?

      Also, was it soccer or American football?


  8. Hi Gabriel, I’m an English football fan (Stoke City). In answer to Rakib, Brits would normally say “we were two nil ahead” or “we were beating Scotland two nil”. Your two sentences aren’t wrong but not the way we’d normally say it.

    One up, two up etc means how many goals the winning team are ahead by, it can mean the difference in scores, so a team could be two up with a score of 2-0, 3-1 etc, but it’s sometimes also used to just indicate how many goals the winning team have scored so far.

    We make similar use of phrases like “a goal up”, “a goal ahead”, “a goal ahead”, “a goal behind”, but we also use “England are leading by one goal” and “England are trailing by one goal”.

    There’s an awful lot more phrases if you’re interested, and usage does vary across the UK a bit.

    Cheers, Luke

  9. Thanks for the post, Gabriel. Amazing
    Two questions, though:

    1. In this sentence you used: “I think we use it when two teams are tied” How could draw be used?

    2. Is there any difference from Am Englis and Br English regarding this subject?

    1. Hi Fabina,

      Thanks for the comment and sorry it took a while to get back to you.

      1. I’m using the collocation to “use a word.” So when I say “We use it,” I’m saying “We use this word.”
      2. Good question! The best thing here would be to ask an American. I’d imagine that if you used these terms in the U.S., however, you would be understood.

      Good questions! 🙂

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