I have read the following sentence in the book "Le Petit Nicolas":

On a commencé a faire des passes et c'est drôlement chouette de jouer entre les bancs.

Context: the teacher of a classroom missed work one day and there is no sub teacher available to replace her. Her little students take the opportunity to do what they want that day, such as throwing paper balls at each other and talk.

What does "faire des passes" mean in this context?

  • 2
    déjouer dentre les bancs. doesn't seem to be correct.
    – Destal
    Feb 5, 2020 at 12:45
  • @Destal right, I have fixed it Feb 5, 2020 at 13:03
  • 1
    Also, it makes more sense with "c'est drôlement chouette de jouer entre les bancs" Feb 5, 2020 at 13:05
  • 1
    I edited the edit to reflect "de jouer entre les bancs" which is the correct formulation. @AlanEvangelista the copy you have probably has a typo in it, "déjouer" makes absolutely no sense here.
    – Laurent S.
    Feb 5, 2020 at 13:11
  • 2
    The original edition has a picture by Sempé that illustrates this short story, and you clearly see the kids are playing soccer. images.app.goo.gl/kG8jKGrrJ7RKhBd37
    – Greg
    Feb 6, 2020 at 13:21

3 Answers 3


“Faire une passe” means kicking or throwing a ball to a partner when playing soccer or any sport with a ball.

  • 1
    There is another meaning... Which is "to have sex with a client" for a prostitute. I guess it was not this meaning, or school has changed a lot since I was young.
    – Destal
    Feb 5, 2020 at 12:46
  • 1
    @Destal > There's actually a known joke about that: "Quelle est la différence entre une prostituée et [insérer un nom d'équipe de foot que vous n'aimez pas] ? La prostituée arrive à faire plusieurs passes de suite...".
    – Laurent S.
    Feb 5, 2020 at 13:00
  • 6
    @Destal: Dans le cadre d'une histoire du petit Nicolas, cela me parait peu probable.
    – Toto
    Feb 5, 2020 at 13:12
  • 1
    When playing soccer, it means kicking the ball rather than throwing it.
    – Greg
    Feb 6, 2020 at 12:58

"Faire une passe" means "to make a pass", with a ball.

Here, considering it's kids playing, "faire des passes" could be translated as:

To play catch


“Faire une passe” literally translates as "Make a pass", and as in English, its meaning is very much dependant on the context. It could be :

  • To make a pass in a sport: to throw/kick/hit a ball/frisbee/puck to another player.
  • To pass [by] someone or something while driving or running.
  • To make a pass at someone: to say or do something that is intended as romantic courtship.

In the case of Le Petit Nicolas, it's probably sport-oriented, but humor is probably intended with 'jouer entre les bancs', ie 'to play between the seats' as referring to something akin to intimate play.

  • Je ne saisis pas le lien entre « Faire une passe » et « to move by a precise spot »
    – Toto
    Feb 6, 2020 at 12:32
  • Voici des exemples. C'est peut-être une expression restreinte au Québec pour le français, mais c'est répandu en anglais : "La fanfare a fait deux passes devant le parlement durant le défilé." "During this flight exercice, make your third pass through the canyon at a much lower altitude than the first two."
    – Splambo
    Feb 6, 2020 at 13:54
  • OK, en français de France on dirait plutôt « La fanfare a fait deux passages ... »
    – Toto
    Feb 6, 2020 at 13:55
  • Can you explain what "2nd-degree humour" means, or change the phrase, please? Feb 7, 2020 at 12:27
  • I've edited my comment, thank you for the precisions.
    – Splambo
    Feb 7, 2020 at 13:29

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