Is It a Date Or Are You Just Hanging Out? Here Are 7 Ways To Tell

You wouldn't think you'd have to wonder, "Am I on a date or not?", but I can't count the number of times friends or I have talked about meeting up with someone and the inevitable "So... is it date?" comes out. I mean, it should be obvious, right? You should know whether or not it's a romantic thing before you get there. But sometimes, even when you are there you're still not sure.

Granted, online dating and dating apps makes things way more clear. You're on there for dating or hooking up, and although I've heard of a few cases where people end up making friends on there, you're almost certainly going on a date. But there are other ways to meet people that aren't so transparent. Especially if you try to stick to offline dating, it can be difficult to tell if you're actually going on a date or just meeting up.

If your main source of meeting people is through your friends and their friends, then things can be really ambiguous. That workmate you decide to go for lunch with, or the friend a friend you meet at party and decide to go see a film together, or, in my life, it's usually a comedian you've gigged with a few times who you decide to get a drink with. What does any of that mean?

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It's just not always that easy to tell. So here are seven ways to help you figure it out:

1. Determine How Far Of A Break It is From The Norm

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Is this someone you meet up with all the time? If it's someone you meet for the first time and they suggest getting a drink, that's definitely a date-ish feel. But even if it's a friend that you see a lot in a group situation, it might be turning into something different. If they're suddenly suggesting one-on-one activities that you wouldn't normally do, there's a good chance there's a reason for that.

So try to gauge if this feels out of the ordinary for the two of you. If you've felt like you've had a flirtation before and there's a change to your normal routine, it's very date-y.

2. How Many Nerves Are Involved?

Very few of us are super smooth and relaxed when it comes to dating and romance. Although some people can suggest a date as easily as the Fonz, for most of us there's going to be some nerves or awkwardness.

So how did this invitation come about? If it felt like they were nervous to ask you, or you felt nervous asking them, chances are that it's a date. Also, if there was a formality to how it came about — rather than a spontaneous hang out — that can be a sign that it's more than just friendship.

3. Talk To Your Mutual Friends

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If it's someone in your mutual friend group, capitalize on that. You've got people you can talk to, which can be hugely helpful in working out whether or not something is meant to be a date. You can ask your mutual friends they've said or what they might be thinking. Chances are, if you share friends then they'll already be teasing you any romantic rumors about the two of you. And if it's caught your friend's attention, it's probably a date.

Mutual friends can also be helpful if you don't know this person very well. You can ask them for advice or any indications of whether or not this person is acting out of the ordinary — so don't be afraid to ask questions.

4. What's The Activity?

Another giveaway is what you're doing. If it's dinner and drinks, that normally signals a date. If it's just a shared activity you've both geek-ed out over, that could be more of a friendly vibe or could be a date. So sometimes you need to look for some subtle clues.

Pay attention to the context — if you're doing something because neither of you had anyone else to go with, that doesn't sound like you're trying to date each other. But if you're looking for excuses to spend time together, that does.

5. What's The Setting?

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If you're not sure whether or not it's a date beforehand, don't sweat it. I've honestly sometimes not been sure until I've shown up and I've decided not to stress about it — you can just wait it out and see when it happens. But often when you arrive, you can tell pretty quickly. If it seems like they've put in some effort for a romantic or special setting, or just put a lot of thought into it, chances are it's a date. Although I'm more than happy to go on dates to my local, cheap pub (it's where I feel most comfortable), usually if the person doesn't know you they'll try to up the game a little bit for a date.

6. Pay Attention To The Conversation Topics

Still not clear? The conversation topics will probably give you a clue. Although I'm all fart jokes and embarrassing stories — even when I'm on a date — they still manage to have a more 'getting to know each other and past relationships' vibe. If you get the feeling they're trying to learn more about you in a romantic way, they probably are. This is especially true if they're asking about your dating history or relationship more generally, so pay attention to questions like that.

7. See How You Feel After

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OK, so I'm a big believer in the idea that you can kind of decide if it was a date whenever you please, even if it's after the event takes place. There are obvious things that can happen, like kissing or touching or sex, that show you it was more than friendly, but it can also just determined by deciding whether you want to meet up again.

If the whole thing was a bit "meh", you can think of it as a bad date, or just a really awkward coffee, or potentially a new friend. Getting too hyped up on whether or not it's a date can mean that you're not yourself, or set expectations high, so if you prefer to just feel out as you go along and see how you feel after the fact, that's totally fine too.

Look, it's not always easy to tell if someone's interested in you or not — so you can always ask straight out if it's a date or just ride the wave and enjoy. But pay attention to all of the little clues, because they're often pointing you in the right direction.

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This article was originally posted on December 22, 2015. It was updated on August 12, 2019.