Hard: To pull the strings
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 pull the strings.
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 are also useful when talking about other topics.
Rich: The phrase we are looking at in this episode is: to pull the strings.
Jack: It’s an idiom which means to control events or other people.
Rich: I like this idiom. It’s really visual. I think it helps if you imagine a puppet on a string. I like to imagine Pinocchio - you know the Italian story of the wooden toy boy that wanted to be a real boy.
Jack: Yes, I know the story. So, you imagine Pinocchio’s movements being controlled by someone.
Rich: Yes, in my imagination I am controlling Pinocchio. I am pulling the strings.
Jack: So, where is the connection with football?
Rich: Well, this idiom is used to describe an influential player on the pitch - usually a midfielder.
Jack: Ah yes. We can say Kevin De Bruyne pulls the strings for Manchester City.
Rich: Exactly. This is saying he is controlling the match. His movement and passing is controlling the match. He decides how his team play.
Jack: We can use it generally and say Kevin De Bruyne pulls the strings for Manchester City or we might use it about a specific match and say something like Bruno Fernandes is pulling the strings for Manchester United.
Rich: OK, so the idiom to pull the strings is used to talk about a footballer usually a midfielder who controls events on the pitch.
Jack: But we use this idiom outside of football too. It’s often used to talk about politicians. Listen to this:
Rich: We all know that the USA has a lot of power in the world, the American President is probably the most powerful person in the world.
Jack: No way. He’s just a puppet. A puppet on a string.
Rich: What are you on about?
Jack: It’s the aliens that really pull the strings.
Jack: Yeah. They rule the world. They pull the strings. Loads of politicians are actually aliens they just look like humans.
Rich: Are you all right, Jack? I think you’ve been working too hard.
Jack: So, to pull the strings is an idiom that is used to describe someone that controls events or that controls other people.
Rich: The definite article is important to remember in this idiom. Someone pulls THE strings.
Jack: This is because to pull strings is a totally different idiom. To pull strings for someone means to use your influence to get an advantage for someone else.
Rich: For example, you might say this to a friend who needs to see a dentist quickly but can’t get an appointment until next week.
Jack: I have a friend who’s a dentist. I could pull a few strings and probably get you an appointment tomorrow.
Rich: So, it’s pull the strings not pull strings because that’s another idiom.
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.
Who pulls the strings for your team?
Write your answers in the comments section below.