(not) to be in one's element

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mirla

Senior Member
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?
 
  • ewie

    Senior Member
    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:)
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    Thank you! And could you tell me, please, what is the antonym to ¨be in one´s element¨?
    Perhaps - "I felt like a fish out of water".



    Thanks for the appreciation, ewie!
     
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    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.
     

    wandle

    Senior Member
    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.
     

    ewie

    Senior Member
    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).
     

    Biffo

    Senior Member
    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:
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