When you're out to dinner with friends, sometimes someone in the group picks up the tab. That person may pick up the tab because he just had a promotion at work and would like to celebrate, or it may be his birthday and would like to treat his friends to a nice dinner.
Picking up the tab means paying for the purchase, which can be just about anything. In the U.S., for example, when a couple gets married, the bride's family usually picks up the tab, which means they pay for the wedding. When a guy and a girl go on a date, the girl usually expects the guy to pick up the tab. (I said usually.) ... or when you're grabbing a quick bite with a friend, and one of you forgot his wallet, the other may say, "Don't worry about it, I'll pick up the tab this time."
The tab is just another word for the receipt. So when someone picks up the tab, that person is literally picking up the receipt so he can go and pay for the purchase. This expression is often used to make a joke when you want to say that someone, say John, is buying everyone lunch. You can jokingly say, "Order whatever you want, everyone, John is picking up the tab."
A: What's the total?
B: It's 32.50. Don't worry, I'll pick up the tab.
A: Thanks. I can't believe I forgot my wallet at home.
B: It's ok. You can get the next one.
A: This is getting embarrassing. The other day, Amy had to pay for dinner, and last week, my boss also had to pick up the tab when we went out to lunch. I forgot my wallet at my desk.
B: Oh no. That is embarrassing.
A: I meant to treat my boss to lunch, too. ... or at least pay my own way.
B: Well, don't worry about it. You'll just have to pick up the tab the next time you go out with someone. ... and don't forget your wallet.
just about - almost
treat someone - pay for something as a gift to someone
grab a quick bite - get something to eat fast
say - for example (see yesterday's blog)
get the next one - pay for the next meal (in this context)
Alright folks, the next time you want to treat your friends to dinner or the movies or a day at an amusement park, instead of saying "I'll pay for it," you can say, "I'll pick up the tab."