What’s the difference between a date and just hanging out?


There’s no real answer as to what differentiates a date from a hang out. There are answers that people will give you, sure, but it’s not like there is some universally accepted rule that says “A DATE MUST BE THIS TO BE A DATE!”. Attitudes around dating change from year to year, and generation to generation, so who can say for sure that the dates we go on today would even be considered dates to our parents and grandparents. I’m almost certain that if I asked my mother whether or not a Netflix & Chill date is actually a date, she’d just call it a booty call. Maybe in 20 years, the idea of going to a bar for a first date will sound antiquated compared to all the Turbo-Orgies™ our kids and grand-kids are going to on first dates.

Everyone’s views on what makes something a date versus a hang out is going to differ, and I don’t think there is one right or wrong answer. I don’t even think my answer is THE answer, just AN answer. Personally, I think a date can happen anywhere, at any time, and at any place, but I’m what you might call “very modern” and also “very forgiving in my ideas of what constitutes a date”. I think you can have a date that happens in someone’s home, I just think that these aren’t always the best dates to go on. I don’t think going to a bar or restaurant with someone automatically makes it a date, nor do I think doing anything with someone you’re attracted to automatically makes it a date.

I think that there are 3 major differences between going on a date versus a hangout, and feel free to disagree with me, but in my opinion, what separates a date from a hangout is Intention, Time and Place, and Expectation:


More than anything else, intention determines whether or not you’re on a date. It’s not the money you spend, where you go, or even how often you see each other. What matter is whether or not both of your intentions are romantic. I can go to the same venue and spend the same amount of money catching up with a friend as I would on a date. What makes these scenarios different is my intention and the intention of the person I’m with. If you meet someone in person for the first time, and you’re both trying to figure out whether or not you’re a good fit for each other romantically, your intention is romantic, thus it’s a date. I’m not personally a fan of coffee dates, but if the intention is romantic and you meet over a cup of coffee, it’s a date. Even if it’s more of a preliminary “would I be interested in them?” sort of way, the intention still has at its core, a romantic driver. If your intention is to network, it’s not a date. If your intention is to catch up, or collaborate, or make a new friend, it’s not a date. If your intention is just to get laid and nothing else, it’s not a date. The location doesn’t matter, the money you spend doesn’t matter, what matters most is “would both of you like for this to be a date?”. If the answer is yes, it’s a date.

Time and Place and What You’re Doing

Another major difference for me between hanging out versus going on a date is setting a specific time and place to meet. It’s also reportedly where the term “going on a date” comes from i.e you set a date when you’ll see each other, and you meet at the appointed time and place. It doesn’t matter what the time or the place is, what matters is that you set a specific time and place to meet, even if it’s as specific as “7ish?”. It’s what separates a hangout and a booty call from a date. Besides the difference in intention, booty calls are usually done without a lot of planning ahead of time, and generally lack specificity because of this. Hangouts can be a bit pre-planned, but usually “whenever you get here/there, and we’ll figure it out” is about as much planning as you’ll get. A date is generally a bit more specific, even if that specificity is fairly loose.  You can hangout, or have a date just about anywhere, but how specific about the time and place and what you’ll be doing helps to determine if it’s a date or a hangout. What you’re doing factors in because look, you can go on a date and both have an end goal that you’ll have sex later, but if you’re meeting just to have sex, it’s not really a date is it? If you tell someone to meet you at 8pm, at your apartment, so you can cook them dinner (and then later have sex)that’s a date.  Whether or not you think it’s an appropriate date is entirely up to you. If you tell someone to come over whenever they like and you’ll just watch tv and figure things out, that sounds like hanging out to me.


Finally, expectations. Everyone has an expectation when they go on a date, some more intense than others. I like to go on dates with some pretty basic intentions and expectations: I have, at minimum, a basic intention that our time together will be romantic rather than platonic. My expectations are that I’ll use our date to figure out if we have enough chemistry for another date. Some people have an expectation that they’ll close the night out with sex, or they’ll figure out if someone is “THE ONE”, or who knows what else. The specifics of your expectations don’t mater, what matters is whether or not your expectations are romantic. Whether you expect to figure out whether or not you’ll go on another date, or you expect to seal the night with a kiss, or you just expect to spend the whole night flirting, your expectations matter. The expectations don’t need to be exactly mutual, but at minimum both parties should go into a date with intentions and expectations that are romantic. If you are seeing someone and your intentions and expectations are romantic, and their intentions and expectations are not, you didn’t go on a date with them.

Whether you agree or not, I want to close and just say that above all else, you should go on the types of dates that you want to go on. I know that more and more, people are complaining about the sort of dates they’re going on, and I feel for them, but…you know you don’t have to go on quasi-hangout dates, right?  If the men or women you’re meeting keep suggesting date ideas that you wouldn’t consider a date, don’t go on those dates!  If you disagree with me and think that there are other factors that go into a date, whatever those factors are, it’s up to you to hold yourself and the people you date to those standards. I know plenty of people who would never consider an apartment date a real date, and that’s fine. If that’s the case for you, hold yourself to that the next time someone invites you over to “watch movies”. It’s okay to going against the norm in how you date if you want to, the same way that it’s okay if I refuse to go on coffee dates. I don’t go on coffee dates because I don’t want to, and if you think an apartment date is something you don’t want, or even consider a real date, don’t do apartment dates anymore.

Date the way you want to date.

Good Luck Out There.

One thought on “What’s the difference between a date and just hanging out?

  1. when i first became single in 2013, i went on Tinder (ugh) and met a guy. i was still new to the process of ‘online dating’ but he and i had a fun banter, chatted on the phone and made a plan to hang in the city on a sat night. we met at a bar, had some drinks, and then he suggested meeting some friends of his who were out at another bar nearby. once we got there i realized we were now in a weird scenario where we had no one-on-one time and his friends were all up in our biz. when i needed to catch my train (he did too), we hopped in a cab to penn station together….WITH HIS BOY.

    long story short, i never saw him again for whatever reason, but we stayed in touch. years later we were chatting and i said something about our date and he replied, “that was a date? thought we were just hanging out.”

    I CANNOT. who knew that someone could ask you to get drinks on a saturday night and then consider it some super casual chill thing?


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