The Malaysian prime minister, Najib Razak, immersed in financial scandal, will crack down before a general election in 2018, if not sooner (see box on next page).


The definition of it is "to prevent someone from doing bad things in a more severe way" But that doesn't seem to make sense to me. I rather think the definition from the link below fits more


[ I ] If someone cracks, that person begins to feel weak and agrees that they have been defeated:

But the question is why "down" was used in that sentence when the dictionary suggests it is not a phrasal verb.

source: //http://www.theworldin.com/edition/2017/article/12612/asean-way

  • The meaning of to crack down on something is to take additional measures to stop it, often rather harsh measures. The FBI is cracking down on copyright violations affecting the film industry. or The principal is cracking down on students who smoke in the lavatory. In the text you quote, the verb "crack down" lacks a complement and so, as a speaker of AmE, I don't really know what it means there. If the meaning is to "fall apart under pressure", in AmE we'd say simply "crack".
    – TimR
    May 18, 2017 at 11:18

2 Answers 2


Merrian-Webster's dictionary entry for crack down states this: "to take positive regulatory or disciplinary action"


So I guess it means that the primer minister will get disciplinary action, sooner rather than later

  • So it doesn't refer to the buttocks orientation when you sit? :-)
    – fixer1234
    May 18, 2017 at 9:47
  • 4
    Someone who "cracks down on" something doesn't get disciplined; he is the one dishing out the discipline.
    – TimR
    May 18, 2017 at 11:23

Crack down on X is a phrasal variation that means to get more strict with enforcing the rules on X.

It's not common at all but crack down without a matching on X can probably mean just being more strict in general, such as about laws, rules, etc.

It's also possible for crack down to not have this phrasal meaning and to mean "to crack, become pieces, and those pieces then fall down" which can be used figuratively.

Based on the entire paragraph from the source...

Early in 2017 things will not look auspicious, with America's commitment to the region under President Donald Trump in doubt, and the politics of several members lurching backwards. In Thailand the junta that kicked out a democratic government in 2014 will dig in for the long haul. It will go after “red-shirt” democrats and those with a dislike for the crown prince, Vajiralongkorn, who is soon to ascend to the throne after the death in October of his father, King Bhumibol Adulyadej. The Malaysian prime minister, Najib Razak, immersed in financial scandal, will crack down before a general election in 2018, if not sooner (see box on next page). And in the Philippines (which holds ASEANs rotating chair in 2017) under the irascible president, Rodrigo Duterte, a vigilante crusade against drug-dealers will threaten to suck society under.

I honestly can't tell which meaning is meant - is Najib Razak going to become more strict and "crack down" on others, or is his career going to "crack down" fall apart due to the scandal?

The writer selected a poor phrase here. Not understanding this is not your fault.

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