General Writing and Grammar Help/Way off base


Dear Ted:

What is the expression/phrase "to be way off base" used?

Would you please give me some examples?

Also, is it always "to BE way off base" or is it possible "to GO or RUN way off base"?

Many, many thanks for your kind help.


Dear Paolo:

The idiomatic expression "to be way off base" comes from the sport of baseball.  If a runner is at second base and moves too far toward third base, he may be "picked off."  That means the pitcher or some other player throws the ball to second base, and the runner who was supposed to be on second base cannot get back to second base in time. The umpire calls the player "out."

The phrase has come to mean being far away from the standard rules or from accepted ideas.


The Yankee player was got off base by the alert pitcher.

John usually has good ideas, but, lately, he has expressed some thoughts that are really peculiar.  These ideas are way off base.

*** Yes, you can "go" or "run" off base, but the usual term is to "be off base."

off base
(idiomatic) Unawares or by surprise, usually in the phrase "caught off base"; OED dates to 1935. Meaning misguided, mistaken, or working on faulty assumptions, this usage dates to 1940. Both these uses derive from the situation of a runner being away from a base and thus in a position to being put out (1872).[1]"The absence of any sharp new angle, any strong new drive in Mr. Roosevelt's messages reflected the fact that he and his Cabinet (only Messrs. Hull. Murphy, Woodring, Edison and Ickes were at hand) had been caught off-base with the rest of the world by the Hitler-Stalin deal, the sudden push for Poland." [2]"Lotte Ulbricht replied that Madame Yang was way off base. No one was demanding that oppressed nations live happily with their oppressors, she said, and added that Russia was, as always, 'wholeheartedly behind the revolutionary struggles of colonial peoples.'" [3]


General Writing and Grammar Help

All Answers

Answers by Expert:

Ask Experts


Ted Nesbitt


I am the bibliographic instruction and reference librarian at a public college. Some members of the English department recommend me to their students. I offer assistance in grammar, punctuation, sentence structure, and paragraph development. My master`s thesis concerns William Faulkner`s tragic novels. I formerly taught advanced placement English at two schools in the Philadelphia area.


I have been one of the highest-ranked volunteers in this category for more than a decade.

B. A. and M. A in English; MSIS in Library & Information Sciences; graduate study in philosophy

©2017 All rights reserved.