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I would like to know the subtle difference between hook up and have sex. I'm asking because hook up seems have a subtly different meaning than have sex: in the situations I've heard this word it seems to mean sex without compromise, while have sex is more general. On the other hand, the dictionaries say hook up = have sex.

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General Reference. to hook up with has various meanings, including meet with as well as have sex with. –  FumbleFingers Oct 18 '12 at 22:49
    
@FumbleFingers yes, I know, I wanna know the difference between hook up and the latter –  user42912 Oct 18 '12 at 22:50
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closed as general reference by FumbleFingers, JLG, tchrist, Rory Alsop, Carlo_R. Oct 19 '12 at 1:06

This question is too basic; it can be definitively and permanently answered by a single link to a standard internet reference source designed specifically to find that type of information.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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"Hook up with" is ambiguous in meaning. It can mean to meet up with friends to hang out, but it can also mean to have sex with someone. Generally, if you are using it with a singular person

I hooked up with this person I met last night at the hoopda.

or in particular if you include "totally," as in

I totally hooked up with my friend last night.

the implication is that a sexual encounter occurred unless there is other context that suggests otherwise. It also implies that the encounter was casual and perhaps almost random; you don't usually "hook up with" someone that you have a long-term relationship with.

By contrast, if you use it with a plural person

I hooked up with my friends last night at the hoopda.

the assumption is that you mean "met up with."

"Hook up with" might be used to imply or suggest that you had sex with someone, so in that sense, it is a more discreet way to say you had sex with someone.

On the other hand, "have sex with" is pretty unambiguous and means to engage in sexual relations with someone else. It is not explicit in an offensive or rude way, but you will leave no doubt that that is exactly what you mean.

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+1 While I generally agree with your answer I think if I heard someone say, "I hooked up with my friend last night" I would not think had sex with. If they said, "I hooked up with this girl/guy I met" then I'd think sex was involved. If it really was the case that a friendly relationship had turned sexual last night I'd expect to hear something like, "You won't believe this but my friend and I kinda 'hooked up' last night" or something that adds a bit more of a hint. –  Jim Oct 19 '12 at 0:09
    
Yes, I think you are right. Let me change the example. –  KitFox Oct 19 '12 at 12:44
    
I often hear (and use) the phrase "Let's hook up later", meaning "let's meet/talk on the phone/have a beer". It never means "let's have casual sex". I could be wrong, but I suspect that the casual sex meaning of hook up is only ever used in the past tense (and subject to the restrictions you noted above.) –  MT_Head Oct 19 '12 at 18:02
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