It's been a while since I finished university so my memory's deteriorated a bit. English's not my first language so I need some help over here.

I was trying my hardest to remember the idiom used in a situation when you're making someone mad intentionally by doing what angers them easily. I'm quite sure it went something like this: "to know what (noun) to (verb)".

2 Answers 2


Using the construction requested in the question, the expression you're looking for is the following:

to know what buttons to push

Depending on how you look at it, this isn't quite a full-blown idiom, but just a common use of language.

From button:

3 c : a hidden sensitivity that can be manipulated to produce a desired response
       // knows how to push my buttons

Note that what I provide here uses the precise construction asked for:

to know what (noun) to (verb)
→ to know what buttons to push

The phrasing in the definition is slightly different, but the sense is the same.

However, based on some comments received, if you want to change the construction from what was remembered into something that is more explicit, you could instead say something like this:

You're making somebody mad by pushing all their buttons that you know to push.

Other variations are certainly possible, but it's the use of buttons and push in a grammatical way that is the essential part of the expression.

  • 2
    I think this is great but I'd suggest that "knowing what buttons to push" and actually pushing those buttons are two different things. So maybe "intentionally pushing someone's buttons" or "pushing someone's buttons on purpose"? Commented May 28, 2020 at 11:01
  • I was just about to write 'the incontestably correct answer'. But I suppose Joel is right; adding the related '... pushes all the right buttons' would cover all bases. Commented May 28, 2020 at 11:05
  • 1
    It would be kind of silly to quabble over this, since OP was asking for a very specific sentence, which Jason Bassford already gave. Y'all are right about the difference between knowing what buttons to push and actually pushing them--of course. But the inconsistency can merely be attributed to OP not remembering exactly what the specific term meant--which, I mean, how could they, when they couldn't remember exactly what it was? I strongly suggest accepting this answer.
    – Naomi
    Commented May 28, 2020 at 13:54
  • Thanks a lot @Jason ! Would take me ages to remember. Commented May 28, 2020 at 17:51

Not an idiom but trolling is another term for making someone mad intentionally by doing what angers them easily.

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