If you’re like me, then you might be a little clueless about when someone is flirting with you, or even when someone is asking you out on a date. To be honest, unless someone uses the word “date,” I will just assume it’s a friendly hangout.

This has led to quite a few situations (more than I care to admit) where halfway through I was like, “Oh wait, is this a date?” A part of me wants to tell you to just ask the person . . . but another part of me knows that I would never listen to that advice. It can be awkward and embarrassing to ask, and we want to seem cool around our potential partners, right? 

So, here are some ways to subtly figure out if it is, in fact, a date:

1. If they pay

The character Alexis from Schitt's Creek, in a short glittery dress, flips her hair and says, "But hey, at least I'm not the one paying."
[Image Description: A girl with long blonde hair and in a short glittery dress, flips her hair and says, “But hey, at least I’m not the one paying.”]
I’m all about splitting the bill or taking turns paying while dating. However, I have 1000% used this move to see if it was a date. And it doesn’t have to be a huge thing! You don’t even have to bring it up. Instead, simply give the other person the chance to offer to pay by finding some organic reason to pause, like rummaging around for your wallet. Then, during that pause, the other person will say something like, “Don’t worry, it’s on me.” Or they won’t. At least then you’ll know.

I’ve also used this move to communicate that something was NOT a date by assertively insisting I pay for myself. You never know, it might come in handy.

2. If they plan something special

A woman, dressed up in a pink dress, clinks her champagne glass with a man.
[Image Description: A woman, dressed up in a pink dress, clinks her champagne glass with a man.]
In my opinion, there is nothing better than when someone shows up prepared for a date. Spontaneity can be lovely, but when someone comes up with special plans, like going to see a play or getting tickets to a fair, it shows they really put effort into making your time together memorable. The more thoughtful the plans are, the more likely it’s a date. If it stands out as a marvelous, fun time, then it’s more likely there will be a second date, right? Sound logic. 

3. If you text each other before

A girl in a green shirt smiling and staring down at her phone.
[Image Description: A girl smiling and staring down at her phone.]
If they find literally any excuse to constantly text you the week leading up to seeing each other — whether it’s sending random funny GIFs, confirming plans, or just saying hi — I think you can safely assume that they are into you and that you are going on a date! Texting is notorious for having a lot of “rules,” like you can’t double text, or you can’t immediately respond, or you can’t use seven exclamation points. But honestly, don’t even worry about the rules. Texting just means they’re thinking about you!

4. If they act nervous

The character Troy from Community, played by Donald Glover, has wide eyes and looks alarmed.
[Image Description: A man has wide eyes and looks alarmed.]
This is where you’ll have to play detective and use some observation skills. There are some obvious body language cues to look out for, such as fidgeting, blushing, or giggling. Of course, they could be all confident and calm, but chances are they will be at least a little nervous — who isn’t nervous on a first date? I don’t trust anyone who isn’t. 

5. If it’s just the two of you

Two men, sitting at a diner booth, cheers with mozzarella sticks.
[Image Description: Two men sitting at a diner booth, cheers with mozzarella sticks.]
Have you ever thought you were going on a date but then you show up and there are ten people there? It’s like something out of a movie. Similarly, when you aren’t sure whether it’s a date or not and it turns out to just be the two of you, it’s so reassuring. This isn’t always a tell-tale sign, but at least that’s one thing you can check off your list. And if it wasn’t already, you have a better chance of making it a date one-on-one.

6. If they keep prolonging it to spend more time together

Two people walking together with ice cream.
[Image Description: Two people walking together with ice cream.]
Some dates can go on forever. As long as you’re into it, it’s a good sign. Maybe your only plans were dinner reservations, but now the other person keeps extending the night by suggesting going for drinks or getting ice cream. If so, they are clearly trying to spend more time with you, which is a good sign that it’s a date — and that it’s going well!

7. If they bring you a gift

Two women talking in an office. One says, "He brought you flowers."
[Image Description: Two women talking in an office. One says, “He brought you flowers.”]
If the other person brings flowers, chocolate, or some other little gift, that is definitely a sign that you’re on a date. A gesture like that requires thoughtfulness, effort, and money. It’s probably not something they would likely do if it was just a hangout. Even more points here if it’s something with a personal touch, like your favorite kind of flowers or a little tchotchke that has personal meaning to the both of you.

8. If the conversation is date appropriate

A girl with red hair, Emma Stone, laughing nervously, and saying, "Wow."
[Image Description: A girl with red hair laughing nervously, and saying, “Wow.”] via Tenor
This one really depends on a lot of variables (like your already-established relationship with the other person), and it might be up to personal preference. I would argue that if someone is taking you on a date, they hopefully have enough sense to stay away from certain topics — past relationships, for example. And you want (dare I say NEED) the conversation to be interesting, but you don’t want anything too heavy or serious that might ruin the vibe of the whole date. If the other person is talking about something that doesn’t seem very date-like, they’re not putting that much thought into what kind of impression they’re leaving on you, so they’re probably not thinking as if the two of you are on a date.

9. If there’s a “goodbye”

Jake Gyllenhaal dramatically waving goodbye.
[Image Description: A man dramatically waving goodbye.] via Giphy
Call me a romantic, but a decent goodbye is so important for a date. If they high-five, side hug, or throw you a peace sign as they walk out then it’s safe to say it’s not a date. I once had a guy literally wave goodbye to me from across the room — although we were actually on a real, confirmed date so this could still go either way. But the message remains: the goodbye is essential. In my opinion, a date goodbye includes three things: a thank-you, confirmation that they want to see you again, and some sort of affectionate physical contact. I mean, if there’s a kiss, then you really know it’s a date. But at the very least, you get a hug (not a freaking WAVE, dude).

Chances are you will use a combination of these to determine if you’re on a date with someone. Everyone’s different, and maybe they won’t think to bring you a gift, but they will offer to pay!

Just use your best judgment.

And if all else fails, you can always ask.

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    Breagh is a yoga teacher, actor and writer currently living in Chicago, IL. She is passionate about fantasy novels, sitcoms, theatre and health/wellness, and is excited to share her passions with The Tempest!