I read an article and was just wondering what this expression means: "passer sous le nez". The whole sentence was as follows:

Tout le monde rêve de ce genre de week-end haut de gamme. Mais il vous passera sous le nez, car il est destiné... à vos chiens.

5 Answers 5


Passer sous le nez means that you'll miss to catch the opportunity of such a weekend.

The idea is that something of interest was very close to you but you fail or forget to catch it for some reason and now it is out of reach (gunshot even.)


I suppose the most accurate translation is "to slip through one's fingers".

Basically, it means you see an opportunity, you're very close to getting it, and yet you miss.

As Stéphane highlighted, "to slip through one's fingers" literally translates to another equivalent French "glisser entre les doigts". It was within your grasp but when you closed your hand, it slipped away.

  • 3
    It's close but notice that glisser entre les doigts exists as well. Commented Nov 3, 2015 at 7:54
  • You are correct, @StéphaneGimenez. I don't think that implies my answer is incorrect, though, as the idea is equivalent. It'd not be the only idiom with another equivalent French idiom. I added it to my answer, though. Thanks!
    – Chop
    Commented Nov 3, 2015 at 9:20

It literally means "it will pass you by under your nose".

The implication in this context is that you will see it come (close to you, right under your nose) and then see it go (away from you so that you end up not having it).

An English equivalent expression might be "so near yet so far".

  • 2
    I don't totally agree with the equivalent (si proche et pourtant si loin) as you lose the notion of movement. With passer sous le nez, you see the thing coming, you can almost touch it and then it goes away. With the other, you can see it, it's not far, and yet the effort to reach it discourages you (e.g. your friend lives a few kilometers from you, but going there is such a pain that you never see them).
    – Chop
    Commented Nov 3, 2015 at 9:59
  • To me, "so far" means "... but there is just one thing that stops me from having it": so I could use the phrase when for example a long-awaited opportunity arises, however on that day I'm already too busy doing something else. In this case the "long awaited opportunity" is a high-end or luxury weekend ... and the "one thing that stops me from having it" is that it's for dogs.
    – ChrisW
    Commented Nov 3, 2015 at 10:05
  • Agreed, it is applicable to this context and my previous definition of it was too narrow. Yet, I still don't find it equivalent (I'm not trying to belittle your answer, I +1ed it; I also hope I'm not trolling or debating uselessly; I just like precision). "Passer sous le nez" or "slip through one's fingers" implies you missed it, while to me, "so close/near yet so far" (as I understand it) implies you're not there (yet).
    – Chop
    Commented Nov 3, 2015 at 11:02
  • @Chop If something vous passe sous le nez can that also mean that (i.e. can it also be used in a context in which) you had an opportunity to take it but that you chose not to take it, i.e. you decided you didn't want it when you could have had it easily?
    – ChrisW
    Commented Nov 3, 2015 at 11:06
  • 1
    That's it, yes, but it's too late now. I don't feel the "too late" in "so close, yet so far". Maybe a "not yet", maybe a "never", but not a "too late".
    – Chop
    Commented Nov 3, 2015 at 14:54

There is an English expression that gives the equivalent to « sous le nez ». While studying the book for the answer, he missed seeing it, it was under his nose.

  • No, passer sous son nez is not the same as l'avoir sous le nez. Commented Nov 6, 2015 at 11:17

The context reveals a lot:

Tout le monde rêve de ce genre de week-end haut de gamme. 
(Everyone dreams of this type of upscale weekend)

Mais il vous passera sous le nez, car il est destiné... à vos chiens.
(But you will be unaware of it, because it is intended for...your dogs)

In English the expression "happen right under your nose" exists, and generally signifies something that, under normal circumstances, should catch your attention but, due to some distraction, gets ignored. Depending on the context, a direct translation may be less appropriate, so one can choose indirect synonymous expressions such as "go unnoticed", "blind to", "unaware of" or, even, "be oblivious to".

  • 5
    That is not correct. "Passer sous le nez" does not imply that you are unaware. On the contrary, it means that you would have liked to catch the opportunity, but failed to.
    – Xr.
    Commented Nov 3, 2015 at 8:57

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