Idiom:  what makes someone tick


Idiom:  what makes someone tick

  • the reasons for someone’s behavior
  • what motivates someone

Example sentences

— I wonder what makes my father-in-law tick.  He never says anything and shows little emotion.

— Historians have tried for years to understand what makes the world's dictators tick.

— Years of therapy never helped me understand what makes me tick.

— Investigators worked together to study clues about what made the serial murderer tick in order to try to capture him.

— I love reading sports biographies to understand what makes the greatest athlete's tick.

— A love of cooking is what made our grandmother tick.

— I'm married to the man and I still have no idea what makes him tick.

— Ms. Brown is a fascinating woman. Do you have any idea what makes her tick?

— I wish I hadn't read her diary but I wanted to know what made her tick.


  • raison d'être 
  • the whys and wherefores
  • someone's true colors

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