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Do we just use "A has a date with B" only when A and B are not yet a girlfriend and boyfriend yet and they are trying to have a meeting to see if they like each other?

Or can "A has a date with B" also apply to a couple who has been in a romantic relationship for years?

Can we say "Mike has a date with Mary tonight" when they have been a romantic couple for years?

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    My wife and I have dates and we have been together for 30 years. Some people call these events "date nights". Sep 10, 2023 at 10:26
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    In most contexts, if we say two people go on / have a date, the implication is they're in the early exploratory stages of a potential romantic relationship. The primary purpose of "dating" someone is to find out whether you're "compatible". So, no - you wouldn't normally use it of an established couple. But of course it's perfectly possible for a married couple to say (with or without an element of whimsy / facetiousness) We finally managed to find a babysitter we can trust, so we're going out on a date tonight! Sep 10, 2023 at 10:27
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    It's also very common with a couple that are girlfriend and boyfriend but maybe not yet cohabiting - if they go out together, just the two of them, it would certainly be called a date. Nobody would restrict it to the first meeting or couple of meetings before there are romantic feelings.
    – Stuart F
    Sep 10, 2023 at 12:30
  • As others have pointed out, using "date" in this context is a bit tricky. A more standard turn of phrase would be "Mike and Mary are going out tonight." More standard still if you indicate where they're going, e.g. "going out to see a movie." Interestingly, it's the "out" that gives the phrase a romantic connotation. "Going to see a movie" can be done totally platonically, but "going out to see a movie" is almost always romantic. Sep 10, 2023 at 19:03
  • What is "a romantic couple for years"? Two people who have been living separately but meeting up regularly for monogamous sex? Sep 11, 2023 at 10:13

4 Answers 4

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While I agree with the comments and answers saying that the word date can be used for a pleasant planned encounter by a married couple, in American English the word is often used with a hint of scare-quote intonation, in acknowledgement that its usual place is in courtship (including "first dates").

My wife and I are going on a dinner-and-a-movie "date".

And that awkwardness is what led, I believe, to the new word date-night. Courting couples do not refer to their planned evening-time fun as a date-night.

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    The idea of "date-night" is that a married-with-children couple typically has little time to go out as a couple, so the occasions when they do is a special occasion and has to be planned ahead of time.
    – Barmar
    Sep 11, 2023 at 14:57
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    @Barmar: My understanding of date-night is that it tends to be a regularly occurring thing, like trash day, not an occasional thing: Sorry, I can't come over to watch the game. Tuesdays are our date-night. Sep 11, 2023 at 15:24
  • Good point, I forgot about that. That's consistent with my point that it has to be pre-scheduled.
    – Barmar
    Sep 11, 2023 at 15:36
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You can have a romantic date with your spouse.

It's the location and the purpose of the romantic appointment that counts. A date can be anywhere and at any time of day; a cinema, a theatre, a small intimate restaurant or a walk in the woods.

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The term "date" does not itself imply novelty, though it is often used that way. The question is whether you will be understood, and a lot of that depends on context and audience. If you are talking to people who know Mike and Mary, you can certainly say they have a date no matter what their relationship might be. As other commenters have noted, it is very common for old married folk and other people in established relationships to go out on dates together. All a date must be is a planned outing with a shared interest and romantic intent. As an example, suppose this were given a context such as "Mike can't go bowling with us tonight because he has a date with Mary." The implication is that (1) Mary is important to Mike (2) Either Mary doesn't bowl, or they want some one-on-one time. The other bowling buddies probably know Mike and that he and Mary are an item. (There is a good idiomatic phrase: to say that a couple are "an item" means that they spend enough time together that they can be considered or included as a unit. If you are going to invite Mary, you probably want to consider Mike too.) If you are trying to convey that the relationship is new and are talking to people who don't know both parties, it is probably best to say it more directly. For example, "Mike has a date with Mary, the woman he met at the concert last week." The other thing to know about the term "date" is that it is a commitment. Mike having a date with Mary means that he has to show up. If he doesn't, that is called "standing her up". Mike would at the very least be in big trouble with Mary. If it is a new relationship, he probably would not get another chance. If Mary got "stood up", all her friends would know it too. That would be very bad for Mike. There is some of that with the term "date-night" noted above. If a married couple have a planned date night and one of them has to cancel it, there had better be a good reason.

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A lot of the answers focus on the word "date," and point out (correctly) that established couples also go on dates. I think this is a bit of a new usage, and intentional. But I want to point out the word "has."

When I'm going out with my wife, I'd say "I'm going on a date with [name]," or "[name] and I have a date tonight," or other such statements.

But when you say "[x] has a date with [y]," I would guess that their relationship is new, or even that this is a first date. This might not be 100% accurate, but it would be my first thought. This is because the use of the word "has" suggests some kind of attainment -- maybe [x] finally worked up the courage to ask [y] out, or they're back together, or whatever. But this is somehow surprising.

If I said "I have a date with [wife] tonight," that would imply (to a listener who is like me, I guess), some kind of freshness or excitement -- maybe we reconciled some major argument, or she just got back from a long trip, or whatever. I wouldn't say it for "we got a babysitter and we're gonna go see a movie." In that scenario I would more likely say "we're going out tonight" or even "we're going on a date tonight," but the idea that we would want to, or be able to, go on a date, is assumed.

(YMMV)

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  • Having a date with someone can also mean a non-romantic planned appointment with a person or object, such as a date with a hairdresser, a date with destiny, a date with a good book.
    – barbecue
    Sep 12, 2023 at 15:24
  • +1. Not sure what prompted the downvotes on this answer. It’s the only one that mentions the difference between two people going on a date (which can easily encompass a married couple’s date night) and one person having a date with another (which feels awkward in that same situation). Sep 12, 2023 at 15:34
  • @barbecue It can, but if I said "Mike has a date with Mary" and it turns out it was Mary cutting Mike's hair, you would definitely not think I had communicated clearly; in fact you'd likely think I had intentionally misdirected you. In any case the intent of the answer is not to argue about the plethora or possible meanings of such a sentence with no context, but to guide an English Language Learner toward the most common and most likely interpretation of the sentence. Sep 13, 2023 at 13:44

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