English – How to Use it in Billiards

English is another word for “sidespin” or “side spin” depending on how you want to spell it. It’s an advanced technique used in billiards that changes the path the cue ball travels. Before learning how to use English, you probably want to master the fundamentals of billiards before proceeding. This post will teach you what English is in billiards, how it works, and when to use it.

So now that we understand that English is just another word for sidespin, let’s look at the different types of English. Depending on which direction you want your ball to spin, you can apply the appropriate type of English to your cue ball. By hitting the cue ball in a different spot with your cue tip, you can make the cue ball spin left, right, forward, or backwards.

English Inside Outside Effects Billiards Diagram

The effects of English on the Cue ball (CB). Click to view larger image. Images by Game Tables Online courtesy Pool.bz CueTable Software.

Types of English:

  • Inside English – If you hit the cue ball on the left side, this is called “inside English.”  CB travels right.
  • Outside English – If you hit the cue ball on the right side, this is called “outside English.”  CB travels left.
  • Stop – Center ball hit. No spin. Results a trajectory that is parallel to your cue stick. In other words, it goes in a straight line.
  • Low English – Also known as “backspin.” Happens when you hit the cue ball below the center. This causes the cue ball to spin backwards and can have a slowing effect on your shot.
  • High English – Also known as “forward spin” or “top spin.” Happens when you hit the cue ball above the center. This causes the cue ball to rotate forward and will make your shot travel faster and travel further.

How it Works

When you apply English, your cueball will travel in the opposite direction of your English. For example, if you put a right English on the cue ball (outside English), your shot will travel to the left. Add inside English and your cue ball will travel to the right. The same hold true for low English and high English going backward and forward.

Billiards English Sidespin Point of Contact

Here you can see different points of contact from low inside English (bottom left) to high outside English (upper right).

Situations to use English

Normally, you can only aim your shot in a straight line. English allows you to alter the trajectory of the cue ball and bend or curve around other balls on the table. This is referred to as “deflection” or “squirt.” Squirt is more commonly used in the United States. Anytime you apply English, deflection is created.

Deflection – The distance between the cue balls path with and without English. Deflection measures the distance between the parallel line traveled by a straight shot and the line the cue ball travels with English. Basically, it measures how far to the left or right your cue ball will travel with English.

Factors Influencing Deflection

  1. The amount of English placed on the cue ball. More spin = more deflection.
  2. The speed/power applied to the shot. By increasing the speed of your stroke, the cue ball will spin more rapidly and result in higher deflection.
  3. The distance between the cue ball and the object ball. The further away the object ball is, the further the cue ball will travel from the parallel line, hence creating a larger deflection.
  4. Friction. This is often forgotten but the condition of the felt on your table has a large effect on deflection. More deflection is created on rough surfaces while smooth tables result in less deflection. This is because the spinning cue ball is not able to grasp traction on smooth surfaces, hence lessening the overall effect of English.

If you have an old table that need to be refurbished, you can check out these articles:

  1. How to Replace Felt on a Billiards Table
  2. Replace Billiards Rails in 1 Hour

Tips for Using English in Billiards

English is an advanced level skill that has many perks. It can help you bend around objects that you don’t want to pocket. It’s really a slick move that can be yet another arsenal to add to your bag of tricks. Take some time and play around with the location of impact and the speed of your stroke. Note how much deflection is created each time you change something.

It takes time and skill to master English largely because it’s hard to know just how much deflection is necessary to achieve the desired results. You really have to play around with this until you understand how the slightest change on the point of impact (cue stick to cue ball) can affect how much the cue ball will spin. Judging friction on the table and adjusting stroke speed all have a large impact.


Here’s a really good video from Brandon Gramse at Select Billiards. Thanks Brandon!

Stay tuned for our future blog posts where we’ll teach you about other effects of English including “throw” and “curve & masse!” You can receive billiards tips daily by following Game Tables Online on twitter @GameTablesOnlin. Don’t forget to stop by and shop for new billiards accessories!

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  3. How to Break a Billiards Rack like a Champ