Press the button or flip the switch?

Press the button or flip the switch?

Posted by Grant Richardson, 2nd August, 2015

In a lift (or ‘elevator’ in American English), you press the button to go to a particular floor level of a building, or to hold the lift door open. Example:

“Please press level 8”

Or, you might say:

“Please press the button to hold the door open”

In a home, you might flip a large switch to switch on the electric hot water heater.

“Please flip the switch for the hot water (heater)”

However, normally a switch is almost flat, such as for the light. So flipping doesn’t sound quite right. Example:

“Please switch on the light”

To which someone might reply:

“Where’s the light switch?”

A button goes in and out, so you press it.

A switch goes up and down, so you flip it, or switch it on or off.

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