Could you tell me if there is any difference between pour drinks and pour out drinks? For example:

Could you pour (out) drinks while I serve the snacks

  • 10
    One example: there's a big difference in connotation between "let's pour a drink for our friend" and "let's pour out a drink for our friend". The former seems like you are being generous and nice, whereas the latter implies that something incredibly sad happened.
    – Abion47
    Commented Jul 11, 2020 at 3:12
  • 2
    @Abion47 Where are you from? Your two cases would mean exactly the same to me. (I'm in the UK. But then, I'm not a regular pub-goer, and most of the distinctions in the answers seem a bit far-fetched to me…)
    – gidds
    Commented Jul 11, 2020 at 16:06
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    @gidds completely agree, UK here too. Seems the distinction is much stronger in US English.
    – SusanW
    Commented Jul 11, 2020 at 16:57
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    @gidds I'm a US English speaker. Here, "pouring out a drink" is the act of taking a drink and pouring it on the ground as a show of respect and remembrance for someone who couldn't be there to drink it (usually because they died or went off to war or something, also occasionally done in jest when someone gets married.)
    – Abion47
    Commented Jul 11, 2020 at 18:58
  • 8
    US English speaker, can confirm what @Abion47 is saying. I’ve never actually seen a drink poured out (although I also don’t drink, which... might be why), but the phrase is well-recognizable. Commented Jul 12, 2020 at 2:23

6 Answers 6


When hosting a dinner party you pour drinks for your guests.

After your guests leave, you pour out the liquid in the drinking glasses before placing them in the dishwasher.

Pour drinks generally means to fill up the glass. Pour out drinks generally means to empty unconsumed liquid from drinking glasses.

One would not say pour out drinks if they were filling glasses.

Serve out is not something that is said.

  • 1
    One could say "pour out the drinks" if they were filling the glasses. See my answer, which has supporting evidence.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Jul 13, 2020 at 6:34
  • 3
    I disagree. 'Serve out the salad' is perfectly possible in British English. And be careful with using 'pour out a drink' meaning to pour it on the ground. This seems an exclusively American usage.
    – Laurence
    Commented Jul 13, 2020 at 15:12
  • 2
    Also disagree - to pour out anything is primarily to serve it, not to throw it away.
    – MikeB
    Commented Jul 13, 2020 at 15:25
  • 4
    It must be a difference between BrE and AmE. I looks like BrE fully uses and comprehends pour out to mean pour from vessel A into vessel B. To my AmE ear pour out means to empty. For example, "I needed a bucket so I grabbed the nearest can of paint, poured the paint out, and used it." All the pour out examples provided in this question's answer immediately evoke scenes of liquids being discarded. Only at the end of the sentence, in retrospective understanding, do I comprehend that something is being transferred.
    – EllieK
    Commented Jul 13, 2020 at 15:42
  • AmE here, and "pour out" definitely means out of the glass/container, either onto the ground or into the sink/trash/whatever. Commented Jul 13, 2020 at 22:46

It's the same concept as the difference between throw and throw out:

I threw the ball.

The ball went through the air and is now some distance from me.

I threw out the ball.

The ball is now in the trash.

Pour out typically means you are discarding a liquid, typically by pouring it down the drain or on the ground.

Pour out can also less commonly be used to mean "pour as part of preparation", e.g. Pour out six cups of sugar for the cakes.

  • 1
    Last point is valid, and may be the source of confusion for the OP; it appears these drinks are being poured in preparation for a party
    – Caius Jard
    Commented Jul 11, 2020 at 20:15
  • 1
    How about asking the Mayor to throw out the first pitch of the baseball season? Commented Jul 11, 2020 at 23:52
  • @Phil Freedenberg: I think just about all phrasal verb constructions do not lose their ability to be used "non-phrasally" if the preposition-turned-adverb makes sense. So, for example, "walk out on X" can mean "abandon X" but it can also literally mean "walk moving/being outside on a surface X".
    – LawrenceC
    Commented Jul 13, 2020 at 12:56
  • If you told me you threw out the ball I would assume there was something wrong with it and that you had discarded it. Although it makes perfect sense.
    – EllieK
    Commented Jul 13, 2020 at 15:47

As a NZ English speaker, I'd understand "pour out" to mean "tip out" or "dispose of".

But there's a less common meaning where staff or hosts "pour out" drinks and line them up for collection. For example:

Obvs from shutterstock, used as one of their free-images.

Confusing? Yes, but the circumstances should tell you what is meant.

  • 6
    We also use that idiom in the UK.
    – mdewey
    Commented Jul 11, 2020 at 12:55
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    As someone from the US, I have never heard this idiom. To instruct someone to do what is pictured here, I might say "prep the drinks" or "set out the drinks" but I have only passing familiarity with the event planning industry and its lingo. Commented Jul 11, 2020 at 19:50
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    @Timbo fair points - this shows how far apart the various dialects of English have drifted. But notice the phrase "set out the drinks" shares that word with "pour out the drinks" so out means "out on display" or "out for collection" rather than meaning "away"
    – Criggie
    Commented Jul 12, 2020 at 1:18
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    A similar variant in American English might be "pour up the drinks" (never "out" in this case). Commented Jul 13, 2020 at 5:58
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    I'v never heard "pour up" (Northeast US/Canada), but I would understand "pour out" to mean this sort of preparation when used in context: "Pour [out] the wine in advance so the guests don't trip over the bottles" or "Pour out the syrup ahead of time so you can add it as soon as the candy solution hits 242˚F" Commented Jul 13, 2020 at 15:34
  • She poured out the drinks for her guests
    She poured drinks for her guests

In that example above, both versions make perfect sense and mean that drinks were served. Note the article “the“ which precedes "drinks" in the first version.

Under “pour”, Lexico's entry says


1.1 [with object and adverbial of direction] Cause (a liquid) to flow from a container in a steady stream.

  • ‘she poured a little whisky into a glass’
    ‘Mats are provided, food is served upon plates and drink is poured into cups.’

1.2 [with object] Prepare and serve (a drink)

  • ‘he poured a cup of coffee’
    ‘Harry poured her a drink’
    ‘Guests poured their own drinks, wrote their own bills and enjoyed great food and live jazz sessions.’

Googling “pour out the drinks”, produced the following quotes:

1. Then, sit back, pour out the drinks, and sample the delights of Tapas - Spanish-style.
Quick and Easy Tapas by Silvana Franco

In a Tweet by the makers of Heineken,

2. Half time! Let's pour out the drinks and get ready to #ChampionTheMatch #MCFCB

From a book entitled Barcraft: Bar and Alcoholic Beverage Service

see transcription below

  1. […] a round of drinks to be repeated, always check that you have remembered it correctly or ask for the order to be repeated before you start to pour out the drinks.
  1. As you poured out the drinks for me
    I felt your hooks sink right into me
    And I knew you were my destiny
    Already Over Me composed by Keith Richards and Mick Jagger

  2. Bill had poured out the drinks. “That's an awfully big shot,” Nick said. “Not for us, Wemedge,” Bill said. “What'll we drink to?” Nick asked, holding up the glass.
    The Three Day Blow by Ernest Hemingway

  3. She looked at him curiously before smiling and pouring out the drinks. “Can I have five tequila shots as well,” Simon then added, in a deadpan voice.
    Baring All Down Under: The East Coast Road Trip

  4. While he was pouring out the drinks, he spoke to him. “I hope you don't think I'm rude for asking, but do you come from West Africa?'
    Valley of Diamonds

“pouring out glasses” reveals

  1. Behind the counter, two waiters with a piece of chalk behind their ear were busy pouring out glasses of wine from the neighboring wineries.

  2. The bars are full of people drinking what can only be described as the worst beer to hit the taps since people started pouring out glasses of Bud Light in 1876.

  3. Tired of wasting your time on pouring out glasses of water again and again?

  4. That first year, Logan and I raised $600 pouring out glasses of lemonade to thirsty ministers.

“poured the [something] out”

  1. When we opened the flask and poured the drinks out they were still ice cold, as if they had just been pulled out of the fridge!

  2. Using a tap the employee poured the wine out of a tap from a keg and into a growler, which Clements thought was a pretty cool concept.

  3. "Yes." I immediately took up the decanter (which was on the table,) in my right hand, and the glass in my left - I poured the wine out, and handed it over to him, keeping my eye on the glass to avoid spilling it; he had approached nearer the table and nearer to me. I was leaning over the table, handing the glass towards him;

  4. "You couldn't have poured the beer out of the glass faster than he drank it."

In none of the cited examples above does “pour out” mean to throw away liquid or to pay homage to a dead person. It's all about context. English is a very flexible language and the OP, and other learners too, need to realise there is rarely one ‘correct’ way to express anything, there can be several different ways of saying the same thing.


I would say that 'pour drinks' and 'pour out' have slightly different usages. 'Pour drinks' has a more specific sense of serving somebody a beverage by pouring a drink into their glass. 'Pour out' is a more generic phrase for pouring any liquid out of a container. It is often seen in the form 'pour ... out'. Examples:

Please pour drinks for the guests every 20 minutes.

I poured the paint out into the tray and prepared the brush.


In addition to all of these good answers I have noticed the term "pour one out for XXX" in a lot of American movies, where a toast is made to a dead person, sometimes accompanied with pouring a drink onto the ground and/or grave of a deceased person. I don't recall where I heard it, but you can see it in Grosse Pointe Blank, etc.

  • Love to upvote the answer but this hip-hop culture (according to the source) simply does not fit with the OP's sample sentence.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Jul 12, 2020 at 14:15
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    It's not (just) hip hop. It goes back to ancient Greece where you would pour out a libation to the gods before drinking. It's seen in Dexter where the Cuban character played by Jimmy Smits does this. It's strongly associated with gangs who do this to show respect to members killed in gang battles. It's widespread. Commented Jul 12, 2020 at 15:03
  • @RossPresser You mean the custom is widespread in the US because as far as I know this ritual is not practiced in neither the UK nor in Italy.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Jul 12, 2020 at 15:10
  • 4
    Stipulated but calling it a hip hop culture aspect is really, really underestimating its reach. Commented Jul 12, 2020 at 17:13
  • Oh neat, I didn't know about this one! Thanks for the update :) Commented Jul 12, 2020 at 20:47

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