“Être à côté de ses pompes” or “être tête en l’air” or even “avoir la tête dans la lune”. Does this tell you something? Have you been in this situation? Let’s find out! Check in the test below the things that you have done or usually do :

Es-tu à côté de tes pompes?

  • I often forget where I put my keys.
  • I forget the names of people I meet for the first time.
  • It’s hard for me to stay focused.
  • I change from one subject to another when chatting with friends.
  • I forget important dates such as birthdays and anniversaries.
  • I often procrastinate. 

Test results : 

1/2 out of 6 = you’re focused, you’re fine.     

3 out of 6 = you tend to forget some things but it’s not bad

4/6 out of 6 = get help! Tu es à côté de tes pompes!

What does it mean?

This informal expression (don’t use it with everybody) is composed of two important parts. First, the preposition “à côté de” (next to) and second the word “pompes” that means “chaussures” in French slang. In this way, this expression means you don’t have your feet in your shoes but next to them. But, it doesn’t make any sense, you would say. Just hold on!

In French, “être à côté de ses pompes” means to be distracted, not concentrated and often dreaming. Let’s see an example of a common situation:

At a restaurant, a woman and a man are having dinner and the woman is telling her journey to this man. At a certain point she stops and says “Are you really listening to me?”, the man comes out of his head and says “Je suis désolée, je suis vraiment à côté de mes pompes aujourd’hui”.

Where does the expression come from?

Formerly this expression was associated with poverty. In olden days, people used the phrases “marcher à côté de ses pompes” (walk beside one’s shoes) to refer to the poor who didn’t have shoes and had to walk barefoot.  This expression was used in this way until the end of the XX century where it acquired the meaning we know today.

When do we use it?

Basically, when you or someone you know is not really concentrating, forgets things easily or just has problems staying focused, you can use this expression. Take a look at the following example: 

Two colleagues at work:

Jean: Patricia, tu peux me donner l’adresse mail du chef s’il te plaît?

Patricia: Ah non, mais moi je ne l’ai pas.

Jean: Comment ça? Mais s’il vient de te la donner, j’ai cru que tu notais quand il te parlait.

Patricia: Euh…Je ne sais pas ce qui m’arrive ces derniers jours, je suis à côté de mes pompes…

Jean: Ca doit être la fatigue…

Do you know an expression in your language similar to this one? Let us know!

Written by: Ingrid Hernandez

We have set up some quizzes so that you can better understand this expression. Just click below to access these quizzes.

expression française

expression française