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se renvoyer la balle

“Se renvoyer la balle” is a wonderful figurative French expression that translates literally to “to pass the ball”. English meanings include the following:

  • to pass the buck
  • to pass the parcel

A French definition on abc states the expression means: “Se rejeter les responsabilités les uns sur les autres”, to reject responsibility between individuals. Said a bit differently, “renvoyer la balle à quelqu’un” means to blame somebody else.

Here’s an example sentence:

  • Les chômeurs téléphonent sans cesse au gouvernement pour l’assurance-chômage mais les départements n’arrêtent pas de se renvoyer la balle. The unemployed are calling the government for unemployment benefits non-stop but the departments won’t stop passing the buck.

Here are two more great expressions for renvoyer la balle:

  • rejeter la faute sur qqnto put the blame on somebody else
  • faire porter le chapeau à qqnto make somebody else wear the hat

more French expressions

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David Issokson

David Issokson is a lifelong language enthusiast. His head is swimming with words and sounds as he speaks over six languages. Of all the languages he speaks, he's the most passionate about French! David has helped hundreds of students to improve their French in his private online lessons. When procrastinating working on his site,, David enjoys his time skiing and hiking in Teton Valley, Idaho.

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