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Is it correct to say I'm asking a friend of mine out (we're both heterosexual and male) when the purpose is just to meet him and talk?

Thefreedictionary.com defines "ask out" as:

to invite (someone) to a social engagement.

Which seems to to mean it's correct to say that.

On the other hand, MacMillan Dictionary defines as:

to invite someone to go with you to a cinema, restaurant etc because you want to start a romantic or sexual relationship with them

So which is correct?

Edit: And if "ask out" necessarily means romance, then what wording to use that doesn't have that connotation?

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    I’d always ask a friend “if they wanted to go somewhere” I’d never ask them out.
    – Jim
    Nov 9, 2016 at 14:46
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    MacMillan and your instincts are correct: at least in the US, this phrase will be understood to mean a romantic invitation. It might even be taken as short for ask out on a date. The association is so strong that using the verb ask with any outing is likely to be understood as romantic: he asked her for coffee means he invited her to a date at a coffee shop (unless you are describing a scene in a diner or at the breakfast table, and even then it might be ambiguous); she asked me to dinner means she invited me to have a romantic dinner with her, and so on.
    – 1006a
    Nov 9, 2016 at 16:07

1 Answer 1

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You shouldn't use "ask out" unless you're talking about a romantic date. There are other ways to say things that don't have these unwanted connotations. (I would use Jim's suggestion from the comments and say I "asked if they wanted to go somewhere".)

The usage (gathered via Google) seems to agree with this:

(Note that I included the "to" because it helps exclude irrelevant results like "asked out of the blue".)

Notice how few results there are for "asking out" the same sex? And several of those results are clearly homosexual. Presumably, if it was used platonically, you would have more results for those two searches.


I redid the search in COCA: PRON ASK PRON out. The context shows that the context is overwhelmingly people asking others on dates.

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