The English word goal has a sports meaning and a non-sports meaning.
The word GOAL in sports
In soccer (as we call the sport in American English) or football (as it is called in British English), the word goal refers to the posts and net, as well as the event of putting the ball inside it.
Some expressions with the word goal in a sports context include:
- score a goal = put the ball into the net
- goalkeeper = the player who defends the goal; the only player on the field who can use the hands
- goalposts = the two posts on the sides of the net (the top one is called the “crossbar”)
- let in a goal = when the goalkeeper fails to prevent the ball from entering the goal
- When the goalkeeper stops the ball from entering, this is called making a save.
- a spectacular goal = a goal that was especially impressive
- the winning goal / the decisive goal = the goal that won the game
- a tying goal = a goal that made the score equal
- an own goal = when a player accidentally puts the ball into their own team’s goal
- disallow a goal = when the referee cancels a goal because of some illegal play before the goal
The word goal is used in the sports of soccer (football), hockey, lacrosse, polo, and water polo.
The word GOAL outside of sports
Outside of sports, the word goal means an objective, something you are trying to do.
Here are some common English collocations with the word goal:
establish / set a goal
When you decide on an objective, this is establishing a goal or setting a goal. These two expressions are the same; the word “establish” is a little more formal.
goal of + gerund
goal + (form of the verb “to be”) + infinitive
We can express goals in two ways:
- My goal is to visit every country in the world.
- I have a goal of visiting every country in the world.
Here’s another example:
- Our goals are to reduce pollution and preserve the environment.
- Our work is focused on the goals of reducing pollution and preserving the environment.
pursue a goal / work towards a goal
The process of doing the activities that will help you reach your objective is called pursuing a goal or working towards a goal (the second one is more informal).
achieve / attain / reach a goal
When you complete your goal, you have achieved, attained, or reached the goal.
short-term goal / long-term goal
A short-term goal is one that you will complete soon, in the near future; a long-term goal is one that will take a long time to complete.
If two or more people/groups share a goal, then it is a common goal.
ambitious goal / modest goal
An ambitious goal is one that is very high and will be difficult to achieve; a modest goal is one that is not so high and will probably be easier to achieve.
attainable / achievable / realistic goals
If it is possible for a goal to be reached, we can describe the goal as attainable, achievable, or realistic.
unattainable / unachievable / unrealistic goals
If it is impossible for a goal to be reached, we can describe it as unattainable or unachievable.
An unrealistic goal is not impossible, but it will be extremely difficult and not very likely.