Tu as l’air ailleurs.
tew ah lay rah-YUHR. Click below to hear this.*
You look completely absent.
Hey! You, there! Are you paying attention? Tu as l’air ailleurs… You seem lost in space.
Not absent-minded, like the proverbial professor who leaves his briefcase on the bus and his hat in the refrigerator. Just absent. You’re at a party, or out at a restaurant, or sitting at your desk at work, and you’re just not there. Your body is present, but your head is elsewhere.
That’s what ailleurs means: elsewhere. It’s a very old word whose first documented use was around 1050. It probably has its roots in an even older popular Latin word meaning in another place.
The expression avoir l’air is usually followed by an adjective. That’s because avoir l’air means to seem or appear. Expressions like tu as l’air triste / heureux / fâché and so on are common: You look sad, happy, mad. (Note that the adjective is always masculine, because air is masculine. It’s l’air you are describing, not the person himself or herself.)
Ailleurs, however, being an adverb, has no masculine or feminine, no singular or plural. It is invariable. So you say Elle est ailleurs just the same as Il est ailleurs. In both cases, they’re not here. And when I say tu as l’air ailleurs, you might as well not be here, because you are not “with it” right now.
*Some mobile phones, such as Blackberries, won’t display the audio player. If no player appears, here’s an alternative link to the audio file: