I get invites which tell me I am expected at 7 for 7.30. What time should I arrive?

  • 4
    In context, it wouldn’t, but “seven for seven-thirty” (without the “at,” as in the question title) would mean (at least for me) a reservation for seven people at 7:30 pm (assuming dinner).
    – KRyan
    Commented Jan 6, 2017 at 21:13
  • Per my answer below, it is simply communicating the tolerance/margins. Therefore you should arrive at 7.00 with the knowledge that being late by 15 minutes in acceptable (albeit a potential nuisance).
    – kwah
    Commented Jan 7, 2017 at 1:03
  • 1
    @Kyran what wierd kind of invitation would be talking about the reservation? Commented Jan 7, 2017 at 5:54
  • @KRyan, that's wrong, please delete it. It'll only confuse learners.
    – smci
    Commented Jan 9, 2017 at 7:08
  • 2
    Even out of context, for UK & Irish speakers of English, "seven for seven-thirty" refers to the time of a formal invite, not the group size. There is a difference with US English.
    – smci
    Commented Jan 9, 2017 at 20:10

5 Answers 5


'expected at X for Y' is a format sometimes used in official invitations - it's effectively a window of time where it's considered polite to arrive, without being late. In your example, 7 for 7.30, one would be expected to arrive between 7 and 7:30, with the main event (often a dinner party) taking place at 7:30 sharp.

An online example of such an invitation can be found here. Note the text in the bottom corner.

Black Tie

7.00 for 7.30pm

Carriages at Midnight

  • 40
    Interesting; I'm a native speaker, but I'm completely unfamiliar with this usage. Do you have a reference for this? I've never seen it - but then, I don't get a lot of official invitations.
    – stangdon
    Commented Jan 6, 2017 at 17:19
  • 17
    It's surprisingly hard to find a definitive reference, but I can find many examples - it's seemingly a British thing. From the Etiquette section : Be clear with times. If you ask guests to arrive at 7.30 for 8, that means cocktails at half-past-seven and dinner at eight.
    – mike
    Commented Jan 6, 2017 at 17:34
  • 21
    @mike Ah, it's British. That would explain it.
    – Andrew
    Commented Jan 6, 2017 at 17:40
  • 2
    @mike - Thanks! One of our many little cross-pond differences, maybe.
    – stangdon
    Commented Jan 6, 2017 at 17:45
  • 6
    @Lambie - it is, I'm afraid - there's a formal invite to a dinner on my mantlepiece right now with 7 for 7.30 printed on it, along with 'black tie' and underneath, RSVP, but then I'm a Brit and living in UK
    – Bamboo
    Commented Jan 6, 2017 at 19:37

This is a shortening of the phrase:

Arrive at 7:00pm for a 7:30pm start.

This is often used when registration or seating etc. is required, where guests are invited to arrive at a given time, while communicating that the event or meeting is due to start later than the arrival time.

This avoids the confusion of advertising 7.00 and having people arrive at 6.30 for a 7.30 show, else advertising 7.30 assuming that people will arrive early and ready to start at 7.30 but then have guests arrive late under the presumption that 7.30 is the meeting time with a later event start.

Specific Example

A concrete example of this would be requesting to meet at the cinema at 7.00pm for a 7.30pm start of the show. Asking to meet earlier is to allow time for purchasing tickets and locating seats while also clearly stating the acceptable range of arrival times/consequences of being late.

For instance, arriving after 7.00pm means ticket purchase etc is rushed with limited/no time for snacks, while arriving after 7.30pm means missing the show/event (or having to order your food after everybody is beginning to eat their starter, in the case of a meal).

It also shows that arriving at 6.30pm is not required since the half-hour "overhead" has already been factored in.

  • Good example at the end there - it's a phrase that is perfectly acceptable for very casual events. Commented Jan 7, 2017 at 1:49
  • @curiousdannii Yes it is suitable for the full range of formal and informal gatherings. As a native British person I also see it frequently used for formal events also. For example for assessments/interviews/meetings (be ready to start at time x) and for awards ceremonies/guest presentations/meals (networking and cocktails before being seated and ready to start at a specific time), in addition to more casual gatherings.
    – kwah
    Commented Jan 7, 2017 at 1:54
  • More likely to be used in British English for some kinds of event (party, meal, presentation/talk, quiz evening, car sharing) than others (plane/train departure time, job interview, medical consultation), tried to figure out the social distinction but cant. Its something to do with the social context.
    – Stilez
    Commented Jan 7, 2017 at 15:38

Arrive at or very shortly after 7, but well before 7:30. "At 7" means exactly what it says: you are expected to be there at 7. "For 7:30" means that the main event will begin at 7:30; for a formal dinner, this would mean that the first course will be served at 7:30. The half hour in between ensures that all guests have a chance to check or put away their coats/jackets, find their places (if it's a large gathering with assigned seats), and mingle a bit.

  • 4
    The point is, if you get there at 7 you will get a glass of sherry. if you get there at 7:30 you'll find everyone sitting at table. Or worse, They are all standing around waiting for you, and the host says "Oh, now we're all here...". If you cause dinner to start late the soufflé will fall and the chef will never forget that it was your fault.
    – RedSonja
    Commented Jan 9, 2017 at 9:32

It is most usually used in more formal invitations where there is an initial event (ie cocktails) that precedes the main event (dinner).

It is not an invitation to arrive at the later time as usually the first event is also catered for. However arriving somewhere between 7 and 7.30 would be acceptable (the closer to 7.30 the less acceptable) with arriving after 7.30 regarded as most impolite.


Another usage of this word combination ([time] for [time]) in British English is if you are describing when you're leaving for an event, and the time you intend to arrive there. For example:

"When are you going to the party?"
"I'll leave at half 6 for half seven, traffic is murder at this time of day"

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