10 American English slang phrases you need to know

If you're learning English in the US or planning to live or work there in the future, knowing some American slang will really help you to settle in. Here's 10 phrases to get you started:


1. To hang out

To socialize with in a casual setting.

Example: Do you want to hang out tonight after class?


2. My bad

My fault or my mistake.

Example: Sorry, I forgot to take the trash out – my bad.


3. To have a crush on/to be crushing on

To be attracted to somebody in a romantic way.

Example: I have such a big crush on Becky. She’s so pretty! or I’m crushing so hard on Connor!


4. Soda

Any kind of non-alcoholic fizzy drink or pop, e.g. Coke, Sprite, Mountain Dew.

Example: Are you thirsty? Do you want a soda?

soda in a cup


5. To chill out

To relax or take it easy. It can also be used as an exclamation, to tell someone to calm down if they’re angry or stressed.

Example: I didn’t do much this weekend, I just chilled out at home or You need to chill out!


6. Trash/to trash

Rubbish or waste (noun) or to wreck something or leave it in a total mess (verb).

Example: Please can you take the trash out? or They trashed the hotel room.


7. What’s up?

‘How are you?’ – in an informal manner. This isn’t a sincere way of asking how someone is – you wouldn’t say this if someone looks like they’re upset or in pain. It’s generally used straight after saying hello, as a casual way of greeting friends.

Example: Hey, what’s up?

Hey, nothing much.


8. To take a rain check

To refuse an offer or invitation with the hope that it can be postponed to another date.

Fun fact: This expression comes from free tickets called ‘rain checks’, which are given to people when an outdoor game is cancelled due to rain or bad weather. The rain check means they can go to the game when it’s rescheduled for another date.

Example: Sorry, but I’ll have to take a rain check for dinner this Friday. Can we do Saturday instead?


9. Pop quiz

A surprise test or exam.

Example: We had a pop quiz in class this morning; I hope I did okay.

students doing a test in class


10. To pull an all-nighter

To stay up and study or work through a whole night.

Example: I’m so tired today. I had to pull an all-nighter to finish my paper before the deadline. 

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