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(not) to be in one's element

Discussion in 'English Only' started by mirla, Oct 6, 2012.

  1. mirla Senior Member

    Saint-Petersburg, Russia
    Russia, Russian
    Hi!
    I would like to ask native speakers if you use both expressions (with "no" and without), because, for example, in Russian when you feel at ease somewhere - it's one expression, if you feel unconfortable - another. But it seems that in English you just need to add "not" to "to be in one's element" and there you are!
    Am I right?
     
  2. ewie

    ewie Senior Member

    Elsewhere
    English English
    Hullo Mirla. Let's try an example:

    He was really in his element at the party last night:)

    He wasn't really in his element at the party last night:(:confused:

    He was out of his element at the party last night
    :(:confused::cross:

    Both negative versions feel slightly odd to me, though the first feels less odd than the second: I'm not sure I'd use it negatively at all.
    Wait for a second opinion, though:)
     
  3. Loob

    Loob Senior Member

    English UK
    Second opinion coming up - I agree with ewie:).
     
  4. mirla Senior Member

    Saint-Petersburg, Russia
    Russia, Russian
    Thank you! And could you tell me, please, what is the antonym to ¨be in one´s element¨?
     
  5. ewie

    ewie Senior Member

    Elsewhere
    English English
    That's what I like: a second opinion that's the same as the first:D
     
  6. Loob

    Loob Senior Member

    English UK
    Perhaps - "I felt like a fish out of water".



    Thanks for the appreciation, ewie!
     
    Last edited: Oct 7, 2012
  7. mirla Senior Member

    Saint-Petersburg, Russia
    Russia, Russian
    Well, it´s funny that in Russian it´s the opposite - when you fell comfortable you are ¨like fish in the water¨...
     
  8. Loob

    Loob Senior Member

    English UK
    That's really interesting, mirla! (Sadly, my ten hours of Russian tuition this summer didn't take me that far:eek::()

    I don't think we could say "he felt like a fish in water" in English.
     
  9. Parla Member Emeritus

    New York City
    English - US
    In my experience, what Ewie and Loob have said would be true in American English as well.
     
  10. wandle

    wandle Senior Member

    London
    English - British
    'Out of one's element' is usually a better way to say it than 'not in one's element', but both are good English and in current use, in my experience.
     
  11. ewie

    ewie Senior Member

    Elsewhere
    English English
    Not in mine.

    I agree with Mrs Loob that the opposite of be in one's element would be be like a fish out of water (or possibly something else I can't put my finger on).
     
  12. Biffo Senior Member

    England
    English - England
    I would happily accept a sarcastic version that uses the negative:

    Situation
    John is a newly famous olympic medallist who has not yet become used to his fame. He is at a gathering with the great and the good.

    Sara: John seems uneasy with the other people at this party.
    Jennifer: Well, he's not exactly in his element is he?

    ___________________________
    NOTE
    the great and the good often ironic distinguished and worthy people collectively.
    http://www.wordreference.com/definition/great and good
     
    Last edited: Oct 7, 2012

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