An ideal way to practise your English is in social situations. If you are in an English-speaking country, you will need some basic vocabulary for when you are invited to a party or social event. Let’s start with the different kinds of parties and social occasions that you might be invited to:
1. A typical party
We all know what a party is, don’t we? What you are likely to hear if you are invited to one, is something like “We’re *having a party on Saturday. Wanna* come?” (*It will sound like ‘wanna’, but we are actually saying ‘want to’.) Take something to drink.
* We have parties, we have barbecues, we have drinks, and we have get-togethers. We
DON’T make parties, barbecues, etc.
* We go to parties: “I went to a wild party last Saturday!”
* We are at parties: “I saw you at Emrecan’s party last Saturday.”
2. A farewell party
‘Farewell’ is an old word for ‘Goodbye’. We have farewell parties when people are leaving a workplace or a school (perhaps an English language school), or leaving their home to go travelling. You are likely to hear something like “We’re having a party for Fernando on Friday night. Wanna come?” Take something to drink.
3. A housewarming party
We have housewarming parties when we move into a new house or apartment. If you are invited, you should take a present: something for the new home, like a plant. You should also take something to drink.
I’ve always liked this expression. I like the thought of warming a house so that it’s comfortable for the new inhabitants. However, the origins of this expression, which are medieval, are more elaborate.
People like to spend their free time with friends and work colleagues, sometimes meeting for a drink and snacks, or a coffee. You could be invited to:
4. A barbecue
I’m sure you’ve seen ‘BBQ’. This is the written abbreviation only! Don’t say “I’m going to a B-B-Q”. Say the complete word “barbecue”. Also, you are going to a ‘barbecue’ OR a ‘party’, never a ‘barbecue party’. ‘Barbecue party’ sounds childish.
If you are invited to a barbecue, ask “What should I bring?” Sometimes the hosts are happy to provide all the food and they will say “Nothing” OR “Don’t bring anything.” Sometimes they will tell you to bring your own meat and they will provide the salads.
They don’t always tell you to bring something to drink, but always assume that you should! If you don’t drink alcohol, bring bottled water or soft drink (coke, juice, etc). If the hosts are providing good quality food, like steak, fish, chicken and/or desserts, it would be appreciated if you took a gift for the host; for example, chocolates or some wine.
5. A get-together
A get-together is more casual. You would hear “We’re having a get-together after work/class on Friday” or “We’re getting together after work/class on Friday”. The get-together may be at the pub or at someone’s home. It it’s at someone’s home, you know what to do: take something to drink!
There are times when you hear “We’re going for drinks (or for a drink) after work/class.” That usually means a casual invitation to join friends, classmates, or colleagues at a local pub or bar. It’s common in English-speaking countries to have a drink or two or three and not eat anything. It’s perhaps not a great idea to drink without eating something but the custom of ‘going to the pub for a drink’ has been around for a long time.
Bring Your Own alcohol. You may have noticed that I suggested (insisted) that you take something to drink when invited to a party or social gathering. It is not acceptable to go to a party or someone’s home for a meal and drink their alcohol. It may be a normal custom in your country that the host provides everything but it is not the custom in Britain or Australia or New Zealand. I’m not sure about the USA, but you should definitely find out if invited to dinner or a party there.
When going to a barbecue, you may be told to “BYO everything”. This means that you should take whatever you want to eat and drink. You may have to cook the meat yourself. Plates, cutlery, and glasses will be provided.
8. “What are you going to be drinking?”
Now, we come to the serious stuff: planning the night ahead, working out what to buy at the bottle-shop to drink later with friends.
This is a common way to express good health and wishes to your drinking companions, usually clinking glasses with everyone.
10. “It’s your shout.”
It’s your turn to buy drinks for the group. If you are drinking with a group of people and they take turns to buy drinks for you, don’t leave before you have bought a ‘round’ of drinks for them. If you don’t want to buy drinks for the group, tell them at the beginning that you will just buy your own.
11. “I’ll have one more.”
In response to “Another drink?” Another one?”
12. “We *partied all night. / We saw the sunrise. / We saw the sun come up!”
We had a fantastic time. Great party! (* ‘Party’ can also be a verb.)
Expressions for when you drink too much!
13. A hangover
A sick feeling or condition that comes after drinking too much alcohol at an earlier time
We get hangovers, we have hangovers, and we suffer from hangovers.
14. “I’m never drinking again!”
A promise to ourselves which lasts until the next party when we get drunk again
15. “I feel like death!”
A really awful hangover
16. “I feel like my head is going to explode!”
A really awful hangover. Our head does not explode and we will probably feel like this again in the not-too-distant future.
17. to drink like a fish
If someone ‘drinks like a fish’ it means they drink an excessive amount of alcohol.
Talking about food
Expressions for eating out (not at home) include:
18. “Let’s grab a bite to eat.”
This doesn’t usually mean at a restaurant; maybe at a cafe or take-away (U.S. ‘take out’).
19. “Why don’t we get some share plates / tapas?”
This means sharing plates of food in a restaurant.
20. “What do you feel like?”
Discussing where to go, what kind of restaurant or cafe everyone would like.
21. “I feel like a steak …/ something cheap … / something healthy …”
In response to “What do you feel like?”
22. “Hello. We’ve booked a table for two people. The name is Carvalho.”
This is what you could say when you arrive at a restaurant at which you have made a booking/reservation.
23. “Hello. Do you have a table for two? We haven’t made a booking.”
This is what you could say when you arrive at a restaurant at which you have not made a booking.
24. “I’d like a glass of the house red/white please.”
House wine is usually a basic wine that the restaurant has bought in bulk and can offer at an inexpensive price.
25. “Can we have the bill please?”
You sometimes have to ask the waiter for the bill!
◊ How to ask people to join you for a special event & practice dialogues.
◊ Let’s celebrate! (words and phrases for parties)
◊ Eating out vocabulary & practice dialogues.