3

Most of the references I found online simply note that "see you later" is a farewell or parting phrase but nothing discussed when it is appropriate to use the phrase. Is it acceptable to use "see you later" in each of the following circumstances?

  1. When you will be seeing the person again later that day
  2. When you will be seeing the person soon (e.g., in a few days)
  3. When you will be seeing the person again at some point in the future (e.g., next year at Christmas)
  4. When you are suggesting that you want schedule something specific
  5. Whenever you say goodbye, regardless of whether or not you will ever see them again
3

Generally speaking, "see you later" is just slang for goodbye. I have heard it used in all of the situations you list in your question. The order you present matching the order I would give them for frequency/commonness.

  1. When you will be seeing the person again later that day.
    • All the time.
  2. When you will be seeing the person soon (e.g., in a few days)
    • All the time.
  3. When you will be seeing the person again at some point in the future (e.g., next year at Christmas)
    • Very frequently
  4. When you are suggesting that you want schedule something specific
    • Surely, but it is usually turned into a question: "See you later?" being short for "Will I see you later?"
  5. Whenever you say goodbye, regardless of whether or not you will ever see them again
    • Definitely heard it, but it can be awkward, specifically because it isn't correct and you're drawing attention to the permanence of the goodbye. This has been used for comedic effect on stage and screen, to mixed results (really, really bad example: possibly the worst fight scene of all time [Warning: Graphic Violence]).
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1

I find that the phrase is used in all those situations, except that it always comes across as strange except in the first instance and stranger and more inappropriate as you go down your list.

An alternative that sounds less strange is

see ya!

which works without strangeness in all informal situations even if it is impossible for a revisit.

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0

I can only answer from a UK point of view - see you later would be used in all your examples, except No. 4 (unless you'd already scheduled a later meeting) and possibly No. 5, although some people will still say it rather than admit they'd prefer never to see you again,or are not likely to see you again. You wouldn't, though, use 'see you later' to, say, the solicitor you've just consulted, or the hospital doctor, so the use of the phrase implies some sort of acquaintance/friendship/familial connection. In reality, it carries no connotation of time; it might mean in an hour, or it might mean in a few months or years.

UPDATE: From the comments below, it would appear that my answer refers specifically to persons under 55 who live in and around London, and then, apparently, not even all those. Nonetheless, the answer I give above is still accurate - it's used as a casual way of saying goodbye (by those of us who use it).

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  • 1
    I'm also UK-based, and I personally would not expect to hear or use "See you later" in contexts where "later" means some time other than later today. – FumbleFingers Oct 23 '13 at 16:30
  • @FumbleFingers : how interesting. Is it regional then, the use of this expression? Or maybe class related?! It's certainly commonly used in the way I describe in London, in particular amongst young people. – bamboo Oct 23 '13 at 17:01
  • I know just one person who habitually says "Later" (not "See you later") instead of "Goodnight". And I've lost count of the number of times I've had to explain to others that he doesn't mean "I'll see you later tonight". Immigrants now make up almost half the population of London, so I suppose there's plenty of scope for linguistic shift - particularly among younger speakers. – FumbleFingers Oct 23 '13 at 17:38
  • @FumbleFingers: I'd forgotten that most very young people now say 'laters' instead of see you later, and said without pronouncing the T, very annoying. I say see you later, meaning some indeterminate time in the future, as do most of us here. – bamboo Oct 23 '13 at 17:43
  • Good point (I was going to mention it earlier, but I ran out of space in the comment box). Yes - I know many young people (15-25-ish) who say/text laters to mean [We'll be in contact again] any/some time in the future. But nobody ever says See you laters, so it's not directly connected to OP's question. – FumbleFingers Oct 23 '13 at 17:50
0

When my girlfriend says "good night" (when sleeping in the same bed) I usually say "see ya" and she just laughs like it doesn't make sense.

Oh whale, say what you want when you want.

Anyway I think #4 doesn't make sense, but the other choices are fine.

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0

As a 70-year-old living in Northern England, it still strikes me as odd unless it refers to later the same day. I can't back this up, but I think I first heard it [years ago] used over any time-frame by Scottish and Irish speakers, but I now get "see you later" from younger people in situations where we may never meet again.

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