Football vs Soccer (English lesson)

World Cup English: Football or Soccer?

Football vs Soccer (English lesson) The Football World Cup 2014 is just around the corner and JDA English is pleased to announce a series of posts that will help you learn English through this sporting event. And we’re going to start by highlighting a big difference between British and American English.

Football or Soccer?

Football or Soccer

Do you call it football or soccer?

As you already know, there are many differences between British and American English (and also English from Ireland, Australia etc., but we’re going to focus on British and American), and I would argue that one of the biggest differences in terms of vocabulary is football (BrE) vs soccer (AmE).

Generally speaking, British people hate it when football is called soccer. I think this is because football is the most popular sport in the UK and it was invented there.

I’m originally from the UK but now live in the US. People here are aware that they are one of only a few nations that call it soccer, and football to people here is American football.

Interestingly, the word soccer originally came from the UK. It used to be called association football, and people took the the SOC from association and added ‘er’ to make socer (or soccer). The difference between these words can cause problems. Here are typical conversations I have with Brits and Americans:

With My Friends from the UK (Conversation One)

Me: I’m playing a lot of football at the moment.
Friend: Don’t you mean, “Soccer” now you live in the US?

With My Friends from the UK (Conversation Two)

Me: I’m playing a lot of soccer at the moment.
Friend: It’s not soccer, it’s football!

With People I Meet in the US (Conversation One)

Me: So yeah, I play a lot of soccer here.
American: Don’t you mean, “football?” Isn’t that what you guys call it?

With People I Meet in the US (Conversation Two)

Me: So yeah, I play a lot of football here.
American: Football or soccer? Because football means something different here.

It gets very frustrating. I think there needs to be a universal word for football/soccer!



If something is just around the corner, it means that it is starting soon. It is mainly used for events.

  • My vacations are just around the corner!
  • The start of school is just around the corner.


This is a more formal way to say, “I think..” and it is often used during discussions and especially in essays.


To be aware of something means that you have knowledge of something; it is something that you know.

  • He wasn’t aware that the word soccer originated from the UK.
  • They’re aware that they make lots of mistakes, they just can’t help it.


I now have some questions for you:

1. Do you prefer to call it football or soccer?

2. What’s the most popular sport in your country?

3. Are you going to watch the World Cup 2014?

Leave your answers below.

Name: Email:
  • chuck

    I really don’t think it’s that much of a burning issue.

  • Richard Bates

    It’s football. It’s not American football. It’s not Australian rules football. It’s not rugby football. It’s just football. And that’s it. Football.

  • Lira Papaskiri

    It is football. I my country the most sports are football and rugby. Yes, I am going3

    • Jack Askew

      Thanks for commenting Lira. Just a couple of corrections for you:

      1. “In my country, the most POPULAR sports are football and rugby.”
      2. “Yes, I am going TO WATCH IT.”

      Hope that helps.

  • pablo

    There is a famous Quote we use to say in Mexico and it states: wherever you go do as you see. What’s the problem, we jus got to adapt to the culture and diferents way others people say words. “When in rome do as romans do” in this case say.
    P.s. Sorry my bad english.

    • Jack Askew

      Don’t apologize, and thanks for the comment. I agree with you; it is important to adapt and accept the differences.

  • Zen

    I prefer to call it football. I live in Russia, perhaps football and ice hockey are the most popular kinds of sports here. Yes, i am going to watch the World Cup 2014.

    • Jack Askew

      Thanks Zen! I heard that Russia won the recent ice hockey championship.

  • marcela

    I’m from Brazil .. and it’s very difficult to think about football as soccer. Footbal is the most popular sport :) everybody knows!! I’m living in Ireland and I wont go to the World Cup

    • Jack Askew

      “Everybody knows THAT.”

      Are you going to watch it on television?

      • Marcela Malevicz

        Everybody knows that :)
        I think I will. I’m not going to support Brazil anyway


  • keremcan063

    Hi jack, I’ve always wondered about this topic. Therefore, thanks for this good e-mail. I prefer call it “football” Actually I hate this word “soccer” Because in my country also call this play is football .And here most important sports are football 😉 But I dont interested football if you ask me why ? I dont know 😉 I interested other thing as usual computer, books etc. Finally, I wont watch the World Cup 2014 . (I hope I explain my self )

    • Jack Askew

      Thanks for the comment, everything was very clear. Where are you from?

      • keremcan063

        Hi jack I’m from Türkiye. we already met . Imy name is Kaan I ask you some question and you help me 😉 thank you again . Take care of yourself . Ta ta for now 😉

  • fatemeh vafaei

    Thank you Jack. It was so interesting.1- I prefer football than soccer because it is used in my country. 2- The most popular sport in here are football and wrestling.3- I don’t like football, but world cup is one of the most important events in 2014, so I’ll watch it.

    • Jack Askew

      Thanks Fatemeh. A lot of people here (in the US) feel the same: they don’t normally watch football, but they will for the World Cup.

  • Ata

    1. I prefer to call it football, because for me it’s really original name for this sport (foot-ball) football.
    2. In my country the most popular sport is football and martial art sports
    3. And of course I will watch a football World Cup 2014, but unfortunately I will watch it on tv.

    • Jack Askew

      Great! Thanks for the comment Ata. I was thinking about going to Brazil, but having a young son has made that a little more challenging!

  • Dilara

    ? prefer football.couse i think it’s so common.if you dont know English,you know what it means.
    In my country freestyle wrestling is popular sport.
    No,i am not interested in football.

    • Jack Askew

      I still hope that you will get a lot from my upcoming posts about the World Cup.

      • Dilara

        Pleasure :) but i watch.couse my friends writing interesting tweets on twitter about games,it makes me interested in

  • Mirjana

    As I am writing this I am watching a friendly match between Brazil and Serbia/ at the moment it is /1*0/ .
    I prefer to call it football /in English or in Serbian/
    The most popular sports in my country are football and basketball.
    I am condamned to watch it, for my husband will watch so I need to adapt the program.

    • Jack Askew

      Thanks Mirjana. I just checked to see that it finished 1-0. The report said that the crowd got frustrated; there are a lot of expectations on Brazil this year.

  • Nodo

    HI Jack. I prefer to call this sport football not soccer..In Georgian football called fekhburti and it word-for-word means foot-pekhi and ball- burti . In Georgia football is the most popular sport and nearly 95% of population love it. And of course I am going to watch the World Cup 2014. My favorite team is Brasil )

    • Jack Askew

      That’s pretty interesting Nodo. Brazil are probably the favourites, but Spain, Germany, and Argentina are going to be really strong.

  • Nassim Jbali

    Actually, I prefer to call it football. In fact, we say the word football in many other languages like in french ” football ” spanish ” fútbol ” portuguese ” futebol ” or Germany ” Fußball “. So I guess that people in many different places are used to the word football. Anyway, I’m from Tunisia (it’s a country in the north of Africa) and football is considered as the most popular sport in my country.
    yeah Absolutely I am not going to miss watching the World Cup 2014 it’s going to be so much enthusiasm and fun.
    Unfortunately that my country isn’t in the World Cup 2014 mmm too bad. But, I’ll support Spain yeah :)

    • Jack Askew

      Thanks Nassim. We talked a little on Facebook about this already, but I will be supporting England, with the US and Spain as my second teams.

  • Vladimir

    Hi, Jack, I am Russian, and in Russia football was always football. I knew about soccer when I started to learn English and interested in English and American traditions and cultrure. On my opinion, the fact that Americans and Britishers use different words to name the same things doesn’t make a big difference. I think the differences in pronunciation are more important. I was a seaman before, and was in Dagenhamn (near London) very often. Local people speak English there, but it is very difficult to understand them. It seems that they speak some other language, especially young people.

    • Jack Askew

      You’re right, the difference in pronunciation is really important too. For example, when I introduce myself – “I’m Jack” – people here think I say “Chuck” because of the vowel difference. In addition, when I say “water,” people aren’t sure what I’m asking for. That’s because the T in water sounds like a D here.

  • Lejla Lakota

    Hello Jack
    1) It’s football, and always will :)
    2) The most popular sport in my country is football of course.

    3) Since Bosnia and Herzegovina for the first time at the World Cup, of course I’ll watch our Dragons! (I suggest to you also!) LOL

    • Jack Askew

      Good luck to the Dragons!

  • Ildar

    1. In my opinion, it doesn’t matter how to call this great kind of sport! The most important thing that we all love this game! Anyway, I prefer the standard of English – the British English! 😉
    2. The football, ice hockey and athletics are considered to be the most popular kind of sport in our country.
    3. It would be awkward to say, but I don’t watch TV at all. Although, I bet to Spain.

    • Jack Askew

      Thanks Ildar. You have given me a great idea for another post… you’ll see quite soon!

  • Valentina Saliy

    I’m in Ukraine. Here like in most European countries this game is called ‘football’. Football is the most popular sport. Football is played by kids and adults everywhere. But, unfortunately, I’d like to emphasize that now fewer ppl play sports than 10 years ago.
    As for watching World Cup 2014 I’m not a fan of football but my family is going to watch some matches,to be interested in the results n which teams r the best in their subgroups and which 3 countries’ teams r winners.

    • Jack Askew

      Thanks for comment Valentina!

  • Oliga

    Hi, Jack.

    I’m not a native English speaker, and I don’t get mad when I hear ‘football’ called ‘soccer’, If I hear you say “Let’s play football” or “Let’s play soccer”, I’ll understand that you want us to play with a round ball ;). However, if you want us to play with an oval ball (rugby), I’d prefer you say “Let’s play American football” in order to avoid misunderstanding. :)
    Regarding the universal word for football(soccer), I suggest that we call it ‘footsoc’. It seems to be a nice word, and there would not be any misunderstandings, or frustration. :)


    • Jack Askew

      Thanks Oliga! I mentioned your idea in my new post!

  • Noza

    We call it football and it is the most popular sport in my country(Uzbekistan) too. I never used the word soccer before coming to Japan. When I met some English speakers here in Japan and used the word football, they started correcting me by saying ” you mean soccer,right”)))Now, I am using “soccer” )))
    Japanese people use American English as well, and it is “Sakka” here which means they also originated it from soccer.

    • Jack Askew

      Thanks for the great comment Noza!

  • Rafael Ferreira

    Nice… I’m from Brazil and I love soccer… 😛 But, here the most of people will call soccer of football. The most of people here are not familiar with English and this have been causing a lot of funny situations on adapting menu and signposts to receive foreigners. Unfortunately I could not buy tickets to the world cup games, It’s sold out so fast. But, I will be watching that and cheering to my country.

    • Jack Askew

      Thanks for the comment Rafael. I have seen a lot of these mis-translations on Facebook! Here is one correction, “But I will be watching it and cheering for my country.”

    • Just A Bloke

      No worries bruv, the word is football.
      The ‘s’ word is deeply offensive to football lovers, so it’s best forgotten.

  • sufi

    Hello Jack!!
    I am from India. Here most popular sports is Cricket and Football too. I like to play Football as it is one of my favourite sports. And yes of course I am going to watch World Cup 2014. Thank you :)

    • Jack Askew

      “Here the most popular sports are cricket and football.” Hope that helps and thanks for your comment.

  • gullu

    I prefer to call football , also our country’s people. Our country the most popular sport are wrestling, football and voleyboll. I don’t like to watch any sport on tv. So I’m not going to watch the World Cup 2014.

    • Jack Askew

      Do you like watching live events?

  • Angie

    I like to call it soccer. If called it football, I will confuse with rugby football. The most popular sport in my country I think is baseball, but I love basketball!
    I will watch FIFA game if I got time!

    • Jack Askew

      “I will watch the World Cup if I have time.” Hope that helps.

    • Just A Bloke

      Rugby already has a name, rugby.
      Football only has one true name, football. There’s no need for confusion, cos all sports av their own name.
      Football is football.
      Rugby is rugby.
      Gridiron is gridiron.
      It’d get confusing if people called baseball, dangerous rounders, & basketball, bouncyball. Know what I mean?
      Anyways, enjoy the World Cup.

  • Just A Bloke

    1. Football is what it is, the other word just means group, the other sport is gridiron.
    2. Football.
    3. Yeah, I’ll watch some of it.

  • shah

    Hello, Jack!
    I have always preferred standard English to American one, so my opt is football. In my country football is the most popular nowadays.

    • Jack Askew

      Thanks for responding Madea! It’s great to put a face to a name too!

      • shah

        How are you , Jack?

  • Jorgelina

    Hi Jack,interesting post! It was good to know the difference between football and soccer. I´m not fan of sports but I´m going to watch the World Cup anyways. I prefer to call it football because it´s just the word I´m most familiarised with. I´d say that the most popular sport here in Argentina is football. And also basketball.

  • Nowar Peaceout

    As an American English teacher living in Bangkok talking about the two sports is frustrating. Thais adore European football and there is a very large English expat community. If I talk about them I always have to differentiate by saying “American football” (which no American would say in the US,) “football/soccer” (which feels redundant,) or “European football” (which no European would say.) If I just say “soccer,” invariably a European will correct me while starting a debate about how American football should be called “handegg” and bombing my facebook page with a plethora of memes stating the same. Actually, I believe that the American version should be known as “yardball,” but if you know anything about the States you know that BillieBob from Backspit, Tennessee would never go for that.

    • Just A Bloke

      It’s simple bruv. Call football, football, & call the other sport gridiron.
      Football lovers can’t stomach the ‘s’ word, but gridiron lovers often refer to their sport as gridiron.
      Lovely, job done, everyones a winner.
      Enjoy the World Cup.

    • Jack Askew

      I feel your pain!

  • ibrahim

    I prefer to say’s more clearly than soccer.
    the most popular sport is football.
    I’d like to see world cup .it’ the most exciting copetition in football in the world .I really enjoy it.

  • Marija Toki?

    Hello Jack :)
    I prefer to call it football rather than soccer, because when I heard the word soccer it associates me of table football or playing it in some sports hall.But when you found yourself in a foreign country it depends of which experience of you people have to choosing the word for expression.
    In my county football is a very popular sport :) but I don’t have intention to watch World Cup :)’s not my cup of tea :)

  • Monika Fretz

    Hello Jack and hello all the other readers here,
    I prefer the word “football” because this word is near on the German word “Fussball” (only the translation).
    But I like to travel in USA and so I prefer to say in English the word “soccer”!
    If I speak German it is “Fussball”, if I speak in English I like to say “soccer”.

    I think the most popular sport is soccer in Germany.
    Many people see soccer in stations, in TV or play soccer by themself.
    In the school the students play soccer very often.

    I`m going to watch the World Cup 2014!
    The first German match was quick, successful and I was so happy about this beautiful beginning! Hope it will be like this through the whole World Cup 😉 sorry 😉