20 American English phrases and words for hanging out

20 American English phrases and words for hanging out

by Alison Maciejewski Cortez

Updated August 17, 2023

Have you ever been told to stop “stirring the water with your paw”? Living in Thailand I used to hear this phrase in Thai a lot. I’ll never forget how hard my friend laughed when I asked her to explain. (It means “to stop messing around”, but it sounds vulgar so it’s only appropriate between friends). I would have never guessed what that idiom meant by myself. Idioms are well-known phrases that have special meanings in a cultural context. You can’t understand them by translating because there is a deeper meaning behind the words. Today I am sharing American idioms and typical American phrases heard in the USA that I taught my Thai friends when we were hanging out. Incorporate these American English idioms into your everyday speech and you will sound more like a native speaker:

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5 American phrases for hanging out

These idioms are useful for hanging out with American friends. They are all phrases heard in the USA, especially in a casual setting like small talk with co-workers and neighbors.

I’m headed out to…the library

The phrase “heading out” means going somewhere. If you are at home, you can head out to work. When work is over, head home…Remember you are always heading out from a starting point to another location. The question “What time are you heading out?” refers to the time you are leaving, not when you will arrive.

What’s up?

This is an American greeting. It confuses English learners because we don’t mean it as a question. The typical response is “Not much. What about you?” “Not much.”  When two Americans pass each other in the street, they will repeat the same exact phrase “What’s up?” or the shortened version “’Sup?” It’s just a simple hello.

How are things? How’s it going?

These are simple greetings too. The question implies that we want to know, in general, how your life is going. Americans expect you to give a scaled response: good, ok, or bad. Sometimes we say “not bad” which is a humble way of saying life is good.

I’m out of here

This one means “I’m leaving (right now)” and is a casual alternative for “goodbye”.

7 American phrases for interesting conversations

As a beginner or intermediate American English speaker, you want to keep conversations moving. If you aren’t comfortable speaking in groups, at least you can make appropriate commentary. Here are some typical American phrases and interjections that show interest without interrupting your friend’s story.

  • For real?
  • Whoa.
  • No way.

These all mean “Really? Are you serious?”

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  • Oh no!
  • Uh oh.
  • Yikes!

Something in your friend’s story sounds scary or embarrassing. “My boss caught me sneaking in late to work again.” Yikes.

  • Phew.

Pronounced like “few” this phrase means “Good, I’m glad.” For example: “I only got a verbal warning.” Phew. 

8 typical phrases for settling the bill

Discussing money at the end of a hangout session can be uncomfortable, especially in a new language. Use these American idioms to settle the bill smoothly. 

  • I’ll get it.
  • This one is on me.
  • It’s my turn.
  • You can get the next round.

All of these phrases mean the person talking will pay the bill. The last two imply that the other person will pay next time to make it even.

  • Let’s go Dutch.
  • Let’s split it.
  • Let’s go “halfsies”.

Most Americans prefer to split the bill every single time. We call it “going Dutch” because we learned it was the Dutch custom to have each person pay their own portion of the bill (verses the English custom to pay in rounds).

  • Can you break this?

Ask a server to “break” your large bill into smaller bills and coins. Once the bill is taken care of, head out for home.

Embrace the lingo and hang out US style

I hope these 20 typical American phrases can help you plan a meet-up, have engaging conversations and settle your bills without any confusion.  Using phrases from the USA means you will communicate in a way that your American friends will understand right away. Plus, you will sound more natural as an American English speaker. What fun idioms have you learned that are useful for hanging out? 

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Alison Maciejewski Cortez

Alison Maciejewski Cortez is Chilean-American, born and raised in California. She studied abroad in Spain, has lived in multiple countries, and now calls Mexico home. She believes that learning how to order a beer in a new language reveals a lot about local culture. Alison speaks English, Spanish, and Thai fluently and studies Turkish. Her consulting business takes her around the world and she is excited to share language tips as part of the Lingoda team. Follow her culinary and cultural experiences on Twitter.

Alison Maciejewski Cortez
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