My buddy was trying to click something on a webpage and he said "It won't click." As a programmer, I know that what he meant was "The event triggered by the onClick handler is not happening." Given this, is it appropriate to say "It won't click" or is there something else to say there like "This link is broken."

Would it change if it were a form's submit button vs. a regular blue anchor tag?

  • 2
    NB: this is an example of middle voice. I can't click the link is active, The link can't be clicked is passive, and The link won't click is middle: grammatically active but semantically passive.
    – Jon Purdy
    Jun 30, 2011 at 3:10

5 Answers 5


It won't click is playfully colloquial, but I think it's fine. It's almost as if you're making the virtual button into a physical object. If it were a physical button, you'd say "it won't press." In that case, you would literally be saying that the button wasn't depressing. It won't click plays on that.

My first choice would be it won't respond. This would work for normal links or other buttons. Also, it won't recognize the click could work.

  • +1 for a much better way to state the same meaning, but no accept because it doesn't address if the first way is grammatically eligible albeit awkward and somewhat ambiguous.
    – Mikey
    Jun 29, 2011 at 23:27
  • Oops, I didn't fully read the question. I'll edit my answer.
    – jackgill
    Jun 29, 2011 at 23:29
  • Wouldn't the button be receiving the click, though, and hence wouldn't "the button won't be clicked" or "the button won't be pressed" make more sense? Granted, your "it won't respond" answer sounds much better than either of those, and your "it won't recognize the click" not only makes sense, but is more accurate than either. Jun 7, 2016 at 1:24

I think a more useful phrase for the developer, and one that would be plausibly plain-English enough to come out of the mouth of an end-user would be this:

"Nothing happens when I click the link/button."

  • 1
    My buddy was on some major website, not something I made; I asked "what's taking so long?" and he said, "It won't click." I have heard others say it this way.
    – Mikey
    Jun 29, 2011 at 23:26

Whether or not it makes much sense now, I can see this becoming standard phrasing. I think it's probably pretty rare now for people to think of clicking as something they do to the mouse. They are clicking the on-screen element with the mouse.


In a conversation about a software system between people familiar with the source code, it is useful to use method calls as verbs, even when their normal definition does not match the meaning in this particular context. For example, "the object does not validate" instead of "the object's validate method returns false".

When talking to a wider audience (i.e. anyone not familiar with the source code) it is advisable to avoid jargon as far as possible, and use terms and phrases that are widely understood. When considering acceptability to a wider audience, we can look at prescriptive language rules, and observed general usage patterns.

From a prescriptive perspective, when talking about clicking an item in an electronic interface, click should normally be used as a transitive verb, i.e. "the user clicks an item", or "the user clicks on an item".

However, when used as an intransitive verb, click has meanings that could make sense in your scenario. If the interface is expected to give audible feedback when selecting an item, then it would be perfectly acceptable to complain when it "does not click". Other meanings of click as an intransitive verb include "function smoothly", or "succeed", but these would perhaps be better applied to overall functioning of a system, rather than a single action within it.

It is certainly possible that your phrase may gain acceptance as a way of describing the failure of an item in a user interface to respond to being clicked on. In fact extending a transitive verb with an intransitive usage seems to be popular. For example, while "validate" is normally a transitive verb, it is very common for people to use it intransitively (e.g. "My ticket won't validate.").

Given the above, I would surmise that this usage of "It won't click" could be judged an acceptable colloquialism. Personally, I would prefer to say "It does not respond when I click on it."

Sources: Merriam-Webster definitions of "click" and "validate".

Tangentially, unless debugging or logging, saying the event triggered by the OnClick handler is not happening is guessing the fault from the symptom. Maybe there is no event registered. Maybe the handler is not being called.


I think what your buddy said should work. If you define it as my clicking the element and click as triggering the event handler as bound by jquery, then the sentence

It won't click.

Should mean:

My clicking the element won't trigger the event handler.

It's a bit complicated but I believe it to be grammatical. The important part is that .click() is waiting for the click event, which unfortunately isn't triggered by your clicking the element. If those conditions are understood, the sentence should work.

  • It could also mean "clicking on the element doesn't have any effect."
    – apaderno
    Jun 29, 2011 at 23:03
  • it is the element itself. "The element won't .click()!" is what I think my friend is saying - he just doesn't know thats what he means.
    – Mikey
    Jun 29, 2011 at 23:20

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