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7 Signs You’re On a Date & Not Just Hanging Out

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Cal Poly chapter.

So…are you on a date? Or are you two just hanging out? Grabbing coffee? Watching a movie? What is classified as a date anymore?

In today’s world of dating, it’s all about keeping things casual. But when things are casual, how is a woman to know if the person she is grabbing coffee with is a date?

Here are some helpful guidelines to tell if you’re ‘going out’—or just ‘hanging out’.

1. It’s Planned – If a person asks you to do something days in advance, it’s a date. This especially applies if it’s just the two of you and you’re doing something at a set time like grabbing dinner or visiting a museum. Contrastingly, if it’s a random, “Hey, are you free? I’m craving a Maple Bacon donut from SloDoCo” hang-out, you’re probably not on a date.


2. He or She Pays For You – This is the 21st century, so going Dutch is completely acceptable. However, there should be some awkwardness or uncertainty when the check comes. If you’re with a friend, you will almost always pay for yourself.  

3. It’s More Than Just You Guys – Spending time with someone while other friends hang out with you is usually hanging out. This could be the pre-cursor to a date, but generally, it’s pretty laid-back and relaxed. The one exception is, of course, double dating. But when you double date, you’re aware it’s happening—after all, you had to plan it.

4. It’s Night-Time – Unless you have already had the ‘exclusively dating talk’, meeting a guy or girl before 5 P.M. usually signals a hang-out. Once it gets dark, there’s a much more romantic mood. However, if you meet up with them past 8… it’s probably a hook-up.



5. You’re Asking Intimate Questions – Flirting is like that famous quote about obscenity: “I know it when I see it.” If he or she is asking you what you thought of the basketball game, then the vibe is probably friendly. On the other hand, if he or she is asking you “date-ish” questions like, “What would I be surprised to know about you?” or “What’s your family like?” then you’re verging into more romantic territory.

6. You Both Made an Effort – Obviously, if you’re hiking Bishop’s, you’re not gonna bust out your favorite shirt or cutest shoes—and neither will the other person. But it’s still clear whether or not you’ve both made an effort to look nice. Friends don’t usually dress up for each other, so a little extra emphasis on his or her appearance should be taken as a hint you’re on a date.

7. Your Phones Aren’t Out – This is a bit more subtle, but in general, people on dates know not to whip out their iPhone to check the score or see what their friends are Snapchatting. If you’re hanging out with someone you’re not attracted to, then it’s way more likely you’ll check Twitter. So monitor his or her phone usage. If it’s barely out, all signs point to ‘date.’

None of these factors alone will guarantee that you’re on a date or just hanging out; rather, in conjunction they add up to a romantic atmosphere—or just a platonic one. Next time you’re getting together with someone, break down the situation so you can get a little more clarity on what’s going on. 

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Aja Frost

Cal Poly

Aja Frost is a college junior living in San Luis Obispo, California. She is equally addicted to good books and froyo, and considers the combo of the two the best since pb & b (peanut butter and banana.) Aja has been published on the Huffington Post, USA Today College, Newsweek, The Daily Muse, xoJane, and Bustle, among other publications. Follow her on Twitter: @ajavuu