I just saw the movie Diary of a Wimpy Kid. The wide boy said, “Do you want to come to my home and play?” But the main character wanted him to say “hang out,” and people around them jeered at the wide boy.
So, what’s the difference between hang out and play?
As other answers already say, hanging out sounds less childish than play.
There’s a slight difference in meaning, though, too.
The word play often connotes playing around with some toy or game: playing marbles, playing with dolls, playing with Legos, etc.
The term hang out refers to spending time together, but not necessarily doing anything in particular: hanging out at the mall, hanging out after school.
When kids are hanging out, they are probably just standing and talking – usually at some location away from home. If they are playing, then that gets associated with playing some game or sport.
Another key is that play sounds childish by itself. Much like in the movie, a teenager is susceptible to being mocked if he says, “Anybody wanna play?” However, that same teen could probably get away with something like, “Anybody wanna play basketball?”
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