The question is on this sentence from Camus's The Stranger.

Mais le président a dit qu'il allait faire procéder à l'appel des témoins.


What is the contribution of faire to the meaning of the sentence?

Does it require an agent for proceeding, such as the court, as distinct from the judge as agent of faire?

I think this amounts to asking whether the Camus sentence is an elliptical form of:

Mais le président a dit qu'il allait faire que la cour procède à l'appel des témoins.


See these translations. Gilbert and Aumüller seem to reflect the idea of separate agencies while the other two effectively get rid of faire.

Stuart Gilbert

Next, the judge announced that the court would call over the witness list.

Matthew Ward

Anyway, the presiding judge said he was going to proceed with the calling of witnesses.

Georg Goyert and Hans Georg Brenner

Dann sagte der Vorsitzende, er wolle nun die Zeugen aufrufen.

Uli Aumüller

Aber der Vorsitzende hat gesagt, man müßte jetzt die Zeugen aufrufen.

2 Answers 2


Faire procéder à l'appel des témoins, c'est demander aux huissiers d'appeler et d'amener les témoins à la barre, devant la cour.

Ce n'est pas le président qui agit, mais il demande à un tiers d'appliquer la procédure de justice qui s'intitule l'appel des témoins (pour être placé à la barre des témoins).

  • Thanks. That's just what happens in the book. "L'huissier a lu des noms qui ont attiré mon attention." So it seems faire does call for an implicit third party agent.
    – Catomic
    Mar 22, 2016 at 10:09
  • 4
    @Catomic -- C'est le couple des verbes faire + procéder qui vous interpelle, il correspond à faire + faire. Je fais : il n'y a que moi qui agit ; je fais faire : je ne fais rien (malgré le sens premier de je fais) ET je délègue l'action à un tiers.
    – Personne
    Mar 22, 2016 at 16:05

faire + a verb + noun: in general. To have or make someone do something.

an exemple: Je vais faire nettoyer mon jardin. I am going to have my garden cleaned [by someone, passive] .

Mais le président a dit qu'il allait faire procéder à l'appel des témoins. But the judge said he was going to have the calling of witnesses started or begun [by someone].

in Larousse we see that procéder à/au quelque chose is: Faire quelque chose, l'exécuter selon un certain ordre, par une série d'opérations : Procéder au recensement des chômeurs. If you look in a good bilingual dictionary, it means: to start, initiate, or institute [as in institute proceedings]

Please note: I have laid out the sentences in English to mirror the French in order to demonstrate that this structure of faire + verb + à/au always suggests in French that someone else will be performing the action. It is not the judge him or herself who will call the witnesses. He is having them called, by a clerk of court or by having a summons issued. He is not directly calling them.

The Camus sentence can be translated several ways. That said, it should be passive:

The judge said he was proceeding with having the witnesses called. That is more idiomatic and keeps the passive structure intact.

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