Last week, I asked one of my coworkers to have lunch with me. I messaged him "Can I have lunch with you?" and he reply "No, I have a meeting until 2pm"

Then around 4 pm, he walked to my desk and asked me if I have something to talk, which prompts me to ask: Does “Can I have lunch with you?” imply I have something to talk about with that person?

closed as primarily opinion-based by Mari-Lou A, FumbleFingers, tchrist, choster, Mitch Aug 19 '14 at 20:54

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    This is a POB question, and the only answers you would receive would be "yes", "maybe" or "no". It could be your co-worker thought your offer/invite of lunch was an excuse. Do you often invite your colleagues for lunch? – Mari-Lou A Aug 18 '14 at 11:55
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    To me it really depends on the tone, context, and who the person is. I can imagine being asked "Hey, let's get lunch today" in a serious tone by my boss after something went terribly wrong with work, and that'd obviously mean to talk about work. But if a coworker I rarely work with came and said calmly, with a smile, "Can we get lunch today?" I'd certainly think it's just to hang out because we're buddies. – user85526 Aug 18 '14 at 13:50
  • @Mari-LouA What's POB question? – Anonymous Aug 19 '14 at 3:15
  • @GeorgePompidou I think this is not about tone. I texted him, didn't talk to him face-to-face. – Anonymous Aug 19 '14 at 3:16
  • To people who vote to close my question, please at least tell me the reason. :) – Anonymous Aug 19 '14 at 3:18

Yes, in the English speaking locales I'm aware of, an invitation to lunch often implies that you want something else (a chance to talk, to engage in a romantic relationship). Lunch provides an innocent environment to do that, so both parties can back out gracefully if things go poorly. It also is a tiny bribe to get the other person to listen to you. Though it can also be not-tiny in some cases like a sales lunch in certain industries.

But occasionally it's just an offer to be friendly and not eat lunch alone.

  • What does hyphenated not-tiny mean ? Is it just the nagation of tiny ? – Tulains Córdova Aug 18 '14 at 16:14
  • @user1598390 - yes, sorry. I occasionally write too much like I talk. – Telastyn Aug 18 '14 at 16:56

I would say it depends on the relationship between the asker and the askee.

I have lunch with coworkers regularly and it's pretty casual. So if you have an established friendship with the coworker where you may hang out at in the kitchen and make coffee together and you get on well, then doing something for lunch to talk further about common interests is pretty natural and it would not be necessary to assume that a particular topic is intended.

However, if a coworker asked you to lunch out of the blue with no prior established relationship then it may be safe to assume that there is an intended topic of discussion.

Rule of thumb is: do you know the person well enough to maintain comfortable conversation with them for a significant amount of time (however long lunch is)? Then no topic is implied or needed. Otherwise, you need to have something in mind to talk about, or what would you say?

The personality of the asker and askee may also play a role. A person may generally not make small talk or be too friendly at work, or may wish to separate work from personal discussion. Different people may have different thresholds for what is considered friendly enough for lunch.

So it varies depending on a number of factors. In any case, even if someone else asks about what you wanted to talk about, they probably were just being polite and double checking, in case your expectation of lunch was different from theirs.


I would say the key here is the use of "can" in the original question.

Asking "can we get lunch" makes it seem less like an invitation and more like a request.

If I want to meet with a colleague or an associate to discuss something over lunch, I might ask "can we get lunch", while if it were a friendly invitation, I'd be more likely to ask "do you want to/would you like to get/go for lunch".

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