The omnipresence of English in Europe has led to numerous discussions about its widespread functions and special status compared to all other European languages. Yet, many of these discussions conceive of Europe as a group of nation states where English is either a first or a foreign language. This chapter seeks to question this well-established distinction by investigating what is in fact the most common use of English in Europe, namely English as a lingua franca (ELF). The chapter suggests a different way of conceptualizing the language in European contexts and provides an updated overview of empirical research into its lingua franca use. Examples of a particular approach to ELF research are provided in the form of two case studies focussing on different aspects of ELF interactions. These studies demonstrate how users of ELF exploit the possibilities intrinsic in the language to achieve their own communicative purposes. Finally, the chapter highlights some future directions for linguistic research and addresses the challenges that the emergence of ELF poses for various areas of applied linguistics.