Etiquette. Taking Leave
Very often it is difficult to know how to stop a conversation and leave a party. Usually people do not quit talking, say good-bye and leave each other abruptly. It is quite normal to say some time before you leave that you are going to do so:
I’m afraid I must be going now.
I must be off, I’m afraid.
Must be going, I’m afraid.
I really have to go now. It’s getting late. Good-bye.
I’m afraid I can’t stay any longer. Good-bye and thank you.
Here are some more phrases that can be said when leaving but they are mostly used by people who know each other well:
Cheerio! (strictly British usage)
See you! (this seems to be the most popular phrase of the moment)
So long! (mainly American)
See you later! (tomorrow/this week)
There are some people with whom it is difficult to end a conversation. The problem is that they usually ignore the signals that end the conversation. So when you are ready to leave a party, you should stand up at a pause in the conversation and say:
Well, I’m afraid I have to be going. (I’ve got to get up early tomorrow.)
I think I’d better go now or I’ll be late for my appointment (class/the dentist, etc.)
If you’ll excuse me, I really should be off now.
If you bid good-bye to a new acquaintance, either a man or a woman, you should shake hands and say:
Good-bye. I’m very glad (so glad) to have met you.
Good-bye. It’s been a pleasure to meet you.
Good-bye. I’ve enjoyed meeting you.
Taking leave of a group of strangers — whether you have been introduced or not — you should nod and smile good-bye to those who are looking at you, but do not try to attract the attention of others who are unaware that you are leaving.
If you want to leave a large party early, you should find your host and say good-bye without attracting more attention than necessary to your going. Others might think of leaving too, and the party would break up.
To show your hosts that you want to see them again, you may say:
It’s been nice meeting you.
Hope to see you again soon.
We had a lovely time.
It was a lovely party.
It is also common to ask your friends to remind you to someone else:
Say hello to Jack for me.
Please, remember me to your sister.
Give my love to Bob.
Give my kind regards to Sandra.
The person addressed usually answers:
Thank you, I certainly will.
If it is a good-bye for a long time, you may say:
I’m really going to miss you.
If you are ever in…, do come and see me — you’ve got my address.
Don’t forget to give me a ring!
Remember to drop me a line!
Keep in touch!
Shaking hands on departure is not as common in English-speaking countries as elsewhere.
(From Speak out 5-6, 1996)