Soccer and Grammar

19 December, 2019

In recent weeks, search terms related to European football have been popular on the internet.

On Monday, for example, Google Trends identified ‘Champions League' and ‘Champions League draw' as the top two search terms on its Daily Search Trends page.

Everyday Grammar
Everyday Grammar

In many areas, people continued to search for information about their favorite football team. In Vietnam, for example, Arsenal was one of the top search terms.

In Egypt, the most popular search term was Real Madrid.

In the spirit of these trends, our Everyday Grammar program this week will explore grammar and football, a game known as soccer in the United States. Specifically, we will talk about how soccer can teach you important points about English.

#1 Sentence structure

First, short sentences about soccer can teach you about transitive verbs and an important English sentence pattern: Subject + Verb + Object.

The pattern often appears like this:

Noun phrase (1) + Transitive Verb + Noun Phrase (2)

Here is an example. Imagine a person is talking about a soccer match in the past tense. They might describe a series of events. One of those events might be:

Ronaldo kicked the ball.

Here, the subject is the Portuguese football player Cristiano Ronaldo. The transitive verb is kick. The direct object, the ball, is a noun phrase. The direct object receives the action of the verb, kick.

Imagine the story about the game as the play continues:

The goalie blocked the shot!

In this example, the subject is the goalie, the verb is block, and the direct object is the shot.

Finally, imagine a radio announcer was describing the game:

Ronaldo scored a goal!

Here, the subject is Ronaldo, the verb is score, and the direct object is a goal.

All of these sentences follow the same basic pattern.

You might be asking yourself why this is an important point.

Understanding this pattern can help you tell which kinds of sentences you are dealing with, even if you cannot understand all of the words.

Take our first example, Ronaldo kicked the ball.

Imagine you are reading about a soccer match and do not know what the word kicked meant.

If you remember the sentence pattern, you can probably guess that the word you do not understand is a verb. You can predict that Ronaldo is doing some action.

Here is an idea. Ask yourself this: do the subject noun and the object noun relate to different things? If they do, then you are likely dealing with some kind of transitive verb.

#2 Exclamatory statements

Soccer can also teach you about incomplete sentences, also called fragments. When talking about soccer, speakers often use these fragments to express exclamatory statements.

Here is an example. In a recent match, Premier League teams Tottenham and Burnley faced each other.

Son Heung-min, a famous player, scored a goal for Tottenham. The announcer said the following words:

What a run! What a player! Wonderful, wonderful goal! A joy to watch.

You often here these kinds of statements when watching soccer games. They are missing important words needed to make a sentence complete, such as a verb.

Listen again:

What a run! What a player!

The statements you heard begin with the word what.

You might be wondering about the difference between exclamatory statements and questions.

After all, many questions in English begin with the word what, as in What is your name?

But in some cases, often when expressing strong emotions, English speakers make statements that begin with what, as in What a player!

Here are two suggestions for telling the difference between questions and statements with what.

First, ask yourself if there is a verb.

Second, listen to the tone, or sound, of the speaker's voice.

Closing thoughts

The next time you are watching a soccer game, try to listen for examples of sentence patterns or sentence fragments. Does the speaker or announcer use the sentence pattern we talked about today, or do they use a different one? What kinds of short, exclamatory statements does the speaker make?

Asking yourself these kinds of questions will help you learn important information, such as new words, expressions and even grammatical patterns.

And that's Everyday Grammar.

I'm Anne Ball.

And I'm John Russell.

John Russell wrote this story for VOA Learning English. George Grow was the editor.

We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments Section.


Words in This Story

page n. a written or online record

trend – n. a general direction or movement

transitive – adj. grammar of a verb having or taking a direct object

pattern – n. something used or designed as model

phrasen. a brief expression

match – n. a game or competition between two or more people

score – v. to make a point (or points) in a sporting event

fragment – n. an incomplete part

exclamatory - adj. describing a word, phrase, or sound that expresses a strong emotion