Dating vs. Hanging Out: Figuring Out The Difference

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Dating vs Hanging Out

You like this person and have been engaging in different activities together. You study together, you exercise together, you go out for coffee together and maybe even cook together. 

You find excuses to call or text them, find reasons to hang out. What do you call this between you two? Dating or hanging out?

Do you tell your friends, “I’m going to grab some drinks with a guy I’m hanging out with,” or “This guy I’m dating asked me to grab some drinks together?.”

In this article, I’ll cover the difference between the two so you’ll know what to say when your friends ask!

What is dating?

Lovely couple dating in a park
Lovely couple dating in a park.

Dating is a stage of a romantic relationship where two people are getting to know each other. To begin with, two people test out whether they are compatible with an end goal of a committed or serious relationship.

During this process, the two people spend time with each other and create special memories to see if there might be a spark to take it to the next level.

Benefits of dating

Dating is a process you can’t skip if you intend to have a successful committed relationship. The following are the benefits.

  1. It can help you get to know someone on a deeper level. When dating someone, you get to know their background, dreams, beliefs, ideals, and values.
  2. You have someone to spend time with and do things with.
  3. Dating can help you get along socially. You learn to be comfortable and at ease with the other person.
  4. You get to have romance in your life.
  5. It helps you select a partner. During the process, you meet potential marriage partners. Dating lets you decide who you want to be in a committed relationship with.
  6. It can help you develop your personality because you learn how to handle different situations and mature in your relationship with others.

What is hanging out?

Friends chatting on the sidewalk
Friends chatting on the sidewalk.

Hanging out is when two people socially spend time with each other or others. It’s a term often used in casual relationships. 

There’s no sign of commitment or exclusivity if two people hang out. It’s a casual version of dating

Hanging out may be based on convenience or short-term circumstances. 

Benefits of hanging out

When it comes to hanging out, there are some benefits involved.

  1. It can be a way to get together with someone minus the pressure of looking forward to a serious relationship.
  2. It helps you get to know someone in a laid-back manner.
  3. You can have romance without commitment.
  4. You can have someone to spend time with.
  5. It can bring you more independence and flexibility since you don’t have to fit your life with the other person’s.

Difference between dating vs hanging out with someone

People are increasingly using the terms dating and hanging out to mean the same thing. Because we live in an era of uncertainty, people are afraid of asking for clarification.

However, these two terms are completely different. So here are the ways to differentiate and understand which one applies to your situation.


Dating: Both of you are focused on each other or keeping it open. But you’ve discussed the probability of being committed to one another at some point.

Hanging out: No chance of exclusivity. You don’t see yourself with this person long-term, or you are unsure if you even want to be committed to them.

Level of preparation

Dating: All the details are organized prior. The person has asked what you like, what you’d like to eat, and where you’d like to go before the actual day.

Hanging out: It is usually coincidental or last minute. The person doesn’t put in the time or effort to make you feel important. They don’t go the extra mile for you.

What are you doing together?

Dating: You frequently go out to do things together or engage in different activities to strengthen your bond. You can go out to a nice restaurant for dinner, watch romantic movies, go hiking, or take road trips. 

Hanging out: You do things that require little or no commitment and planning. You don’t do things that feel like a date. Mostly you get the “come over” texts or “let’s hang out at my place.”


A man introducing his girlfriend to his friends
A man introducing his girlfriend to his friends.

Dating: It usually goes like this, “hi, meet my girlfriend/boyfriend.” or, “Hi, this is (insert a name.).”

Hanging out: You are always introduced as “my friend.”

Emotional connection 

Dating: You feel connected to the other person on a deeper level and feel secure connecting that deeply. Intimacy goes beyond physical attraction because you feel seen and heard. 

Hanging out: You don’t feel emotionally connected. You might know the basics about the other person’s life, but that is it. You don’t open up to each other about deeper stuff.


Dating: You meet and communicate regularly, which tends to increase over time.

Hanging out: You meet once in a while, and the communication is inconsistent. You might not hear from the other person for weeks.

Can hanging out lead to dating?

Not all the time!

Hanging out can lead to dating, but it depends on the situation. A lot can go wrong when trying to change a hangout to a date. 

Emotions and feelings can be involved in dating. So for a hangout to lead to dating, both of you should at least share mutual feelings.

How to turn a hangout into a date?

You might have someone in your life who you hang out with occasionally and need them to be more than a hangout partner.  

Telling someone you hang out with a lot that you want to date them can be pretty scary because you risk scaring them away, but there’s no taking away from it if you do it right.

How to turn a hangout into a date

Make them like you but take it slow

It would help if you started changing the dynamics slowly. For instance, if you are used to hanging out once in two weeks, increase the frequency to maybe once a week. You can also increase the frequency of your communication slowly.

If you bombard them with attention, you might scare them off.

Gradually change your actions

You can show them by giving their needs special attention. The idea here is to treat them how you’d treat a significant other.

So rather than asking them to come over to your house, you can take them to their favorite restaurant. You can also send gifts on special occasions such as birthdays. 

Connect emotionally

An emotional connection allows you to connect deeply with the other person. You start building an emotional connection by asking questions and getting to know the other person deeply. 

Learn what makes them happy. What makes them sad. Learn about their childhood, adult aspirations, and so much more. Also, talk about yourself for them to know you.


After you’ve done all the above, tell them how you feel. Be as honest as possible with them.

Give time

After pouring your heart out:

  1. Give them some time to think about it and process everything.
  2. Remember that you can’t control how the other person feels.
  3. Leave the ball on their court.

How long should you hang out with someone before you start dating?

It’s not just a matter of how many times you should hang out. But what kind of vibes do you get from the other person when you hang out? Before taking it to the next level, you need to ensure that the other person likes you more than a friend.

One of the indicators to help you determine if you should ask someone out on a date is if they are pleased to see you and enjoy your company. If you’ve gotten to the point that you talk often, do most things together, and you can be your true self, you can ask them out for a date.

The bottom line

If you find yourself in this mystery of trying to find out if you’re dating or just hanging out, you will have to be upfront and initiate a conversation. That’s the best thing you can do to solve this mystery.

In the future, it might help to ask someone whether they’re asking you out on a date if they give you an invitation. 

Photo of author


Over the years, Stephanie has had her fair share of dating experiences. While some turned out great, others weren't so great. She believes that relationships are meant to be fun, exciting, and full of laughter. She wants to help men and women become confident, attractive, and successful in their romantic relationships.