English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

What are some words or phrases that can be used when a person is discussing a particular subject with a group of people and unintentionally she/he talks about something unrelated? I need a formal expression.

share|improve this question

closed as not constructive by RegDwigнt Oct 20 '12 at 13:30

As it currently stands, this question is not a good fit for our Q&A format. We expect answers to be supported by facts, references, or expertise, but this question will likely solicit debate, arguments, polling, or extended discussion. If you feel that this question can be improved and possibly reopened, visit the help center for guidance.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

The usual expression is 'beside the point', but if someone is being evasive we might complain that they're 'going off the point'. – Barrie England Mar 26 '12 at 18:28
possible duplicate of What is a word that means "to railroad the conversation"? – FumbleFingers Mar 26 '12 at 19:43
going down a rabbit trail – zpletan Mar 28 '12 at 3:25
up vote 8 down vote accepted

Here are a few ways of expressing that, from casual to more formal:

  • Going off-topic
  • Getting off track
  • Rambling or not getting to the point
  • Losing focus
  • Digressing
  • Tangential to the discussion
  • Not relevant to the topic at hand
  • Diverting the conversation
  • Subject is not pertinent to the conversation
share|improve this answer
These are exactly what I have been looking for!! Thanks!! – user19341 Mar 26 '12 at 18:45
Great! I'm happy I was able to help! – Ellie Kesselman Mar 26 '12 at 18:49
One might also say "on a side note..." or related to "tangential to the discussion" but less formal "(going) off on a tangent" – TecBrat Aug 23 '12 at 16:47

I'm fond of going off-topic. You could also say that they are going off on a tangent or speaking tangentially.

share|improve this answer
"Fond of going off-topic." - good you don't ask many questions here then :P – Daniel Mar 26 '12 at 18:45
Speaking of good burger joints... – Jim Mar 26 '12 at 19:54
I saw a turtle! – cornbread ninja 麵包忍者 Mar 26 '12 at 20:04
@cornbreadninja Oooo shiny! But that isn't formal ;o) I liked the turtle. – Ellie Kesselman Aug 27 '12 at 5:59

The short answer is: "digress". It means to go off-topic.

share|improve this answer

The expression you need is "That's beside the point". Alternatively you can also say "That's irrelevant."

share|improve this answer

Funny no one has mentioned this yet. I thought I might as well include this. It's "sidetrack" :

To divert from a main issue or course:

share|improve this answer