Ma foi

Ma foi
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Informal French Expression

Meaning frankly, long story short, indeed
Literally my faith
Register informal, dated
Pronunciation [mah fwah]
IPA   [ma fwa]

Usage notes: The meaning of ma foi is a little hard to pin down, as it’s really just a filler or exclamation, rather than an idiomatic expression. It’s informal and somewhat old-fashioned; in fact, I’ve never heard it said by anyone under 60. Bottom line, while you do need to know what it means, you’re probably better off not using it.

1) Ma foi = "frankly" or "in all honesty":

Par exemple…

Ma foi, je ne vois pas l’intérêt.   Frankly, I don’t see the point.
Ma foi, j’espère qu’ils ne reviendront pas.   In all honesty / To tell you the truth, I hope they don’t come back.

Synonyms

  • crois-moi
  • en toute bonne foi
  • en toute franchise
  • en toute honnêteté
  • franchement
  • honnêtement
  • sincèrement

2) For emphasis

Par exemple…

Ma foi, oui.   Indeed, yes.
Ma foi, c’est impoli.   Well, that’s very rude.
C’est ma foi la réalité d’aujourd’hui.   It is indeed today’s reality.

Synonyms

3) (dans le Midi) To sum up a long, boring, or obvious answer:

     a) “You don’t really want to know”:

     Par exemple…

– Vous allez bien ?   – Are you well?
– Ma foi, oui.   – Yes, for the most part.

Meaning: I’m not sleeping well because I’m so worried about my son, who was in a car accident, but I don’t want to burden you so I’ll just say "yes."

Synonyms

  • bref
  • dans l’ensemble
  • en bref
  • enfin bref
  • en quelque sorte
  • en résumé
  • plus ou moins

     b) “Obviously! What a dumb question”:

     Par exemple…

– Est-ce que tu as entendu que Laure va déménager ?   – Have you heard that Laure is going to move?
– Ma foi.   – Obviously.

Meaning: She’s my roommate, so of course I know.

   Synonyms

  En anglais

Ma foi is defined as "indeed" in some English dictionaries, though I’ve never heard anyone say it. Someone told me that in Texas, oh ma foi means “yes, indeed,” “I agree,” or “certainly.”

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Ma foi

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4 Responses

  1. foo 30 March 2018 / 14:13

    Why on earth do you say “you are better off not using it? Because you have personally never heard anyone under 60 use it?

    • lkl 31 March 2018 / 13:03

      What I actually say is “you’re probably better off not using it,” meaning that it’s up to you to decide. Everything on this site is fwiw based on my own experience, which is 30+ years of speaking French and 10 years living here.

  2. Aude 14 December 2017 / 3:14

    Actually you are mistaken France is so large and each area has there vocabulary too. I live in Hérault, on the south ouest Mediterranean and often here, “ma foi” is used by young generations as well as old from 23-60. Indeed mostly as a filler but it is still actively used here by all ages and anyone using it in response to someone wouldn’t be thought as archaic or dated.

  3. Sue 28 October 2016 / 13:47

    Sounds kind of like the English expression, “My word!” Older folks say this but not usually said by the younger generation.