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être à côté de la plaque

The French expression “être à côté de la plaque” translates literally to “to be on the side of the target”. The idiom in particular has several English meanings:

  • to be clueless
  • to be wide off the mark
  • to be incorrect, inaccurate
  • to be off the beam
  • to be completely mistaken
  • to miss the point completely

Here’s an example sentence:

Marc travaille dans la finance depuis trois ans mais il ne comprend pas du tout ce qui se passe dans les marchés financiers. Il est vraiment à côté de la plaque. Mark has been working in finance for three years but he doesn’t understand what’s happening in the financial markets at all. He’s really clueless.

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David Issokson

David Issokson is a lifelong language enthusiast. His head is swimming with words and sounds as he speaks over six languages. Of all the languages he speaks, he's the most passionate about French! David has helped hundreds of students to improve their French in his private online lessons. When procrastinating working on his site,, David enjoys his time skiing and hiking in Teton Valley, Idaho.

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