Sports verbs

How can you describe the actions you do in different sports in English? Here’s a list of common sports verbs.

What you do with a ball (with your hands)

pass = throw the ball to another player on your team
“Pass the ball quickly!”

throw = push the ball into the air with your hands
“She threw the ball into the air.”

catch = take the ball with your hands when someone passes to you
“Her team member caught the ball.”

serve = begin play (for example, in tennis)
“She served an ace.”

return = hit the ball back (for example, in tennis)
“He returned the ball to continue the rally.”

ground = make the ball hit the ground (especially in volleyball)
“He grounded the ball and won the point.”

bounce = make the ball hit the ground and come up in the air again
“The ball bounced once and the player hit it back over the net.”

hit = make contact with the ball
“He hit the ball with his racket.”

bowl = throw the ball fast with your hands towards the opposing player in cricket
“Ne bowled to the batsman.”

What you do with a ball (with your feet)

pass = kick the ball to another player on your team
“He passed the ball back to the goalkeeper.”

kick = move the ball with your feet
“He kicked the ball into the net.”

dribble = keep kicking the ball as you go forwards (before trying to pass to another player)
“He dribbled the ball past the defender.”

tackle = try to take the ball from another player
“Be careful when you tackle!”

shoot = try and kick the ball into the net
“Dalglish shoots, but misses.”

Other useful verbs

head = use your head to hit the ball
“He headed the ball into the back of the net.”

run = move quickly
“He ran past the defender.”

race = try to move faster than someone else
“They both raced for the ball.”

sprint = run quickly for a short distance
“The runner sprinted to the finish line.”

jump = move upwards into the air
“The goalkeeper jumped up to catch the ball.”

dive = fall to the ground to make it look that an opposing player has tackled you badly (especially in football)
“If you dive in the match, you might get a yellow card.”

(commit a) fault = do something wrong
“If you commit a foot fault, you’ll lose the point.”

(commit a) foul = do something “illegal” or unsporting to hurt another player
“He fouled the other player who then got a penalty shot.”

blow the whistle = when the referee signals the end of the (football) match
“He blew the whistle at half time.”

win = be the player or team that gets victory
“We’ve won every match this season!”

lose = be the player or team that doesn’t get victory
“She lost in three straight sets.”

score = get a point or a goal
“He’s scored all the goals this season.”

draw = have the same score as the opposing team
“They drew 1-1.”