Ne confonds pas hâte et précipitation. Il faut la jouer fine.

I suppose that this expression translates as "play it careful"? Or more idiomatically in English, we say:

"There's a fine line between A and B, and we need to walk that (fine) line."

But why you need to use « la » rather than « le » is beyond me. This is nothing more than a wild guess, but could it have something to do with « la limite », as in:

{my interpretation} : La limite entre hâte et précipitation est plutôt fine. On doit faire attention à ne pas la franchir.


Why say « la jouer fine » instead of « le jouer fine »?

Because the second sentence is incorrect, should be le jouer fin.

Why la instead of le?

It is not 100% clear what la refers to, but this recent set expression has always been using the feminine. As it is something that is played, my first guesses would be either la partie (sports) or la pièce, la scène, la comédie (theater).

Here, fine doesn't means "careful" but avec finesse, subtilité.

After some research, I found in Le bouquet des expressions imagées (1990) by Claude Duneton, that la is stated to probably refer to une bille (boule) de billard - peut-être de billard électrique, i.e. a ball used to play billiard or maybe pinball. This refers to an expression used in billiard: prendre la bille fine, i.e. effleurer (to kiss), which is the opposite of prendre la bille pleine (full ball hit). This perfectly matches the current usage of "la jouer fine", i.e. instead of frontally attack some task, use finesse and tact to achieve it.


« Il faut la jouer fine » means that someone has to act wisely, to be smart. The « la » isn't used because some idea of limit is implied. You can use that expression in a sentence where the idea of limit isn't present, for instance :

Mes chances de succès sont faibles, je vais devoir la jouer fine.

« la » and « fine » are refering to the case, l'affaire, which gender is féminin. You could write your sentence this way :

Ne confonds pas hâte et précipitation. Il faut jouer l'affaire de manière fine.

  • 1
    Tu pourrais ajouter cette référence pour appuyer ta réponse, en effet ce qui est important c'est de souligner, comme tu le fais dans ta réponse, que fin a le sens d'habile.
    – None
    Dec 28 '16 at 10:41

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