Why do I need to know cinq à sept?
If you ever want to channel your inner clichéd Frenchman – or woman, come to that – then cinq à sept is the expression for you.
So what does it mean?
Un cinq à sept is a typical French expression to describe an affair. The expression, which literally translates to 'five to seven', comes from the hour at which work days ends 5pm, and the time is dinner is served at home, 7pm.
Un cinq à sept used to refer to any kind of activities you would dedicate yourself to in this two-hour period, be it friendly apéros or working out.
However in France, the meaning of the expression was soon only understood as a euphemism for adultery. Cinq à sept is used to talk about both the lover and the affair.
J'ai rendez-vous avec mon cinq à sept après le boulot! – I have a rendez-vous with my lover after work!
Ils ont réservé une chambre pour un cinq à sept, c'est évident. – They booked a room for an affair, this is so obvious.
These days most French people finish working later than 5pm and the increase in home working, freelancing and remote working means that the 5-7 tradition is kind of dying out. That's not to say that people have stopped having affairs, of course, just that there's a rather more flexible timeframe these days.
Which may be contributing to this expression's rather old-fashioned image. While it's still widely understood in France, these days it is not much used, particularly among younger French people.
If you want a slightly more up-to-date expression to describe your romantic exploits you could use une aventure – which specifically means an affair or sexual exploits, not an adventure, as many an Anglophone has discovered to their embarrassment when they start cheerily telling people Je suis venu à Paris pour une aventure (I've come to Paris to have an affair).