2-nil and 3-3: how to say football scores in English

The Euro 2012 tournament in Ukraine and Poland has begun so now is an ideal time to look at how we speak about football scores in English.

On television and radio the results are read in a straightforward way: England one, France one; Holland one, Germany two, etc.

However, we use a different style when we speak informally about scores.


If the two teams have an equal number of goals at the end of the match we say it’s a draw, or that the teams drew.

When speaking about a 0-0 result, we can say any of the following:

  • It was a nil-nil draw.
  • It was nil-nil.
  • They drew nil-nil.

Let’s say the final score was 1-1. We could say:

  • It was one-all.
  • It was a one-all draw.
  • It was one-one.
  • They drew one-one.

The Poland-Greece game on the first day of the Euro 2012 competition finished 1-1. We could use any of the above or we could say:

  • Poland and Greece drew one-one.
  • Poland drew one-one with Greece.

Euro 2012 Ukraine-Poland


Another early game in the Euros finished Russia 4 Czech Republic 1.

For this result we could say any of the following:

  • Russia won four-one.
  • It was four-one to Russia.
  • Russia won by four goals to one. (a little more formal)

Away wins

In an English Premier League match there is a home team and an away team. The home team is always written first, regardless of the final score:

Chelsea 0 Newcastle 2 (We see that Chelsea were the home team because they’re written first.)

However, when we speak about the result the winner comes first and we put the ‘two’ before the ‘nil’:

Chelsea 0 Newcastle 2

  • Newcastle won two-nil.
  • Newcastle won nil to two.


  • It was two-nil to Newcastle.
  • Newcastle beat Chelsea two-nil.

We could also say:

  • Chelsea lost 2-0 to Newcastle.


How to speak about a result after penalties

When a match goes to penalties after extra-time we say the team won on penalties.

Let’s say the final score was Barcelona 2 Real Madrid 2 and then in the penalty shoot-out Barcelona scored five penalties and Real four.

We’d say:

  • It was two-two and Barcelona won five-four on penalties.

You should now be fully equipped to talk about football scores in English. Enjoy the rest of EURO 2012 if you’re watching it!

If you found this article helpful please share it with friends. Thanks!


Stuart is an English teacher and runs the Speakspeak website. He currently lives in Prague and has been teaching for over 20 years. Follow Stuart and contact him by subscribing to his monthly newsletter.


  1. sam - June 15, 2012, 10:16 am Reply

    It was interesting ,and I learnt a lot from it!
    thanks alot stuart

    • Stuart Cook - June 15, 2012, 7:13 pm Reply

      Thanks, Sam.

      • Anonymous - December 24, 2015, 5:42 am Reply

        Thanks a lot Stuart.how do we use the words ‘be defeated and be beaten’?

  2. khalid - June 20, 2012, 4:13 pm Reply

    Yeah, it was useful , i like the part which talk about Real Madrid.
    Well, Thank you

  3. Anar - November 21, 2012, 11:34 am Reply

    Thank you for interesting materials. I speak a lot about football with my foreign work -mates. I have looking materials for a long time.

  4. hanita - February 2, 2013, 10:36 am Reply

    thanks for your useful info about football scores.i was looking for that . how can i connect you? because i’m an eng learner.

  5. Nhi - March 26, 2013, 12:40 am Reply

    Thanks a lot!

  6. Friend - January 30, 2014, 9:33 pm Reply

    thank you it was so useful for me thanks a million

  7. Songyi - June 15, 2014, 3:07 pm Reply

    Great and very helpful material for esl learners. Thank you so much. Would it be wrong if I said ‘zero’ instead of ‘nil’?

    • Stuart Cook - June 16, 2014, 9:06 am Reply

      Technically it’s not incorrect to say zero, but it sounds very unusual. No one in Britain would say that the result was four-zero.

      Use zero when you’re speaking about the temperature: it was four below zero last night.

      • Tom - September 18, 2017, 10:55 am Reply

        Hi Stuart,

        everytime I watch sports, they say 2-0 – two to nothing. Is it only an American thing or just an ice-hockey thing? I also teach English and I have been teaching this.

        • Stuart Cook - September 27, 2017, 8:55 am Reply

          Hi, Tom
          I’ve heard commentators in Scotland use ‘two-nothing’, but nowhere else. Admittedly, I don’t watch American sports, so I can’t say.

  8. Pia - June 23, 2014, 1:53 am Reply

    It is very useful. I was looking for everyday version of expressions.
    Thank you so much!!

  9. Jony - November 1, 2014, 5:54 am Reply

    Thank you. This is very useful for me 🙂

  10. Jony - November 1, 2014, 5:55 am Reply

    Thanks Stuart. It is very useful for me 🙂 a great job

  11. Vivek_Kubaji - May 27, 2016, 6:56 am Reply

    Thanks Stuart. This was helpful to me as well 🙂
    Could you also add a few examples where you include the tournament name. While speaking it is usually not required but sometimes in a chat it would be needed.

  12. shruti - August 13, 2018, 1:46 am Reply

    hi Stuart,
    I just want to ask that how do we pronounce 0-2.

    • Stuart Cook - August 16, 2018, 12:25 pm Reply

      Two-nil. Always the higher score first.

  13. Anonymous - September 25, 2018, 4:35 am Reply

    Thank you! Cleared a lot of doubts

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