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Being a non-native speaker, I don't quite have a good feel for this. Is it usually referred to in singular or plural?

For example, is it "We painted the goal white" or "We painted the goals white", when referring to just one side of the pitch?

P.S. I think I know why I was unsure: Russian for "goal" behaves the same as "scissors" does in English, i.e. it has no singular.

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"A scissors" and "a pair of scissors" are both acceptable in Southern U.S. speech. The former is singular unless explicitly pluralized, and the plural form is identical with the singular: "A scissors was set out", "Three scissors were set out". –  StoneyB Aug 16 '12 at 23:36
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3 Answers

Although in some languages it is used only in plural (which I assume was the original reason for the question), the word goal is a normal, countable noun with two numbers in English. Example:

He headed the ball into an open goal. (taken from here)

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Each end of the playing field has but one goal and one goal-keeper. One may paint the goal white, in referring to the entire structure known as the goal. However, a ball may bounce off any of the goal posts. And the match may end with a score of 9 goals to 5.

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Use singular when referring to each member of a set, and plural for both or all members.

There's a goal at each end of the pitch.
We painted both goals white.

The goals means "both goals," so use plural there too.

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Thanks :) Of course I understand the general rule; it's just that there are exceptions like "scissors" and I wasn't sure if "goal" was one of them. –  romkyns Feb 5 '12 at 23:00
    
@romkyns In cases like scissors where there's no singular form, a dictionary will always note that. Look there when in doubt. –  rdhs Feb 5 '12 at 23:10
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