Ma Foi: French Expression Explained

Ma foi, ça va.
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Expression: Ma foi
Pronunciation: [ma fwa]
Meaning: frankly, long story short, indeed
Literal translation: my faith
Register: informal, dated
Notes: Ma foi is more of a filler or exclamation than an expression, which makes figuring out its meaning a little tricky. It's a bit old-fashioned so you don't necessarily want to use it yourself, but it's still important to understand what it means.

Uses for Ma Foi

1) Ma foi can mean "frankly" or "in all honesty":
Ma foi, je n'en sais rien.
Frankly, I don't know anything about that.
Ma foi, ça m'est égal.
In all honesty / To tell you the truth, I don't care.
Synonyms: crois-moi, en toute bonne foi, en toute franchise, franchement
2) Ma foi can emphasize whatever you say it with:
Ma foi, j'espère que non.
Well, I (certainly) hope not.
Ma foi, oui.
Indeed, yes.
C'est ma foi vrai.
It's certainly true.
Synonyms: ben, en effet, enfin
3) In the South of France, ma foi is commonly used to sum up a long, tedious, or obvious answer:
a) "It's a long, boring story, so I'll spare you the details":
-Ça va? -Ma foi, ça va.
-How are you? -Fine, for the most part.
Meaning: I'm actually suffering from several minor ailments, but you don't want to hear about that so I'll just say that I'm fine.
Synonyms: bref, dans l'ensemble, en quelque sorte, en résumé, plus ou moins
b) "The answer to that is obvious":
-Sais-tu que Michel va divorcer? -Ma foi.
-Do you know that Michel is getting divorced? -Obviously.
Meaning: He's my best friend, so of course I know. (Optional: what a stupid question!)
Synonyms: bien sûr, évidemment
Ma foi in English?
Some English dictionaries include the expression ma foi meaning "indeed."

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Team, ThoughtCo. "Ma Foi: French Expression Explained." ThoughtCo, Apr. 5, 2023, Team, ThoughtCo. (2023, April 5). Ma Foi: French Expression Explained. Retrieved from Team, ThoughtCo. "Ma Foi: French Expression Explained." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 2, 2023).