Hard: Move the goalposts
Premier Vocabulary is a mini-podcast for you to learn football English one word at a time. We have three different levels for you: easy, medium and hard.
This episode is hard so we’re looking at more difficult football phrases and idioms. These phrases can be used to talk about football but are also useful when talking about other topics.
Learn more football vocabulary with Premier Skills English. Each lesson in our Premier Vocabulary section looks at one football word or phrase. This lesson looks at the phrase to move the goalposts.
You can find more lessons on the side of this page.
Rich: Hello my name's Rich and welcome to Premier Skills English - Premier Vocabulary.
Jack: Hi there! I'm Jack. We're here to help you with your football English. Premier Vocabulary is a mini-podcast for you to learn football English one word at a time.
Rich: We have three different levels for you: easy, medium and hard.
Jack: This episode is hard so we're looking at more difficult football phrases and idioms. These phrases can be used to talk about football but will also be useful when talking about other topics too.
Rich: The phrase we are looking at in this episode is: to move the goalposts.
Jack: Why would you want to do that?
Rich: Do what?
Jack: Move the goalposts. Nobody would score.
Rich: Very good but no, we're not literally talking about the goalposts - the two vertical poles that create part of the goal frame.
Jack: No? I remember as kids when we used jumpers or little cones as goalposts. When I was in goal I'd always move them a little. Make the goal smaller.
Rich: That's cheating. We're talking about a phrase an idiom. To move the goalposts has a non-literal meaning, too.
Jack: Yes, it does. It means to change the rules while someone is doing something to make it harder for them to do it.
Rich: OK, so it is a bit similar to what you used to do as a kid - moving the goalposts so nobody would score but let's look at some other examples.
Jack: I really thought we were going to sign him.
Rich: What happened? Why didn't you?
Jack: I'm not sure. I think his agent moved the goalposts at the last minute. Asked for more money or something.
Rich: That's a pity. He'd have been a great signing.
Jack: I think we've done everything on our side. We've paid for the premises, we've bought all the equipment and hired some staff even though that wasn't in the original agreement.
Rich: Yes, yes that's all good but we've decided that we'd also like a percentage of any future sales …
Jack: You can't keep moving the goalposts like this. We'll give you 48 hours to agree to what is on the table now or we'll start considering alternatives.
Rich: In both of these examples we use the phrase to move the goalposts to describe someone changing something while something is happening.
Jack: In the first example a football agent tried to change his player's contract at the last minute.
Rich: In the second example one business is trying to get a better deal at the last minute by changing the terms of the business deal or contract.
Jack: We often use the phrase when we are complaining about someone - You can't keep moving the goalposts like this or I think his agent moved the goalposts at the last minute.
Rich: We can also say to shift the goalposts instead of move the goalposts to mean the same thing.
Jack: There is the final whistle!
Rich: We'll be back soon with more Premier Vocabulary from Premier Skills English.
Jack: Bye for now and enjoy your football.
- Have you ever had a teacher or boss that always seemed to move the goalposts to stop you from succeeding?
Write your answers in the comments section below.