I was wondering whether the words "suspect" as a transitive verbs and the phrasal verb "be suspicious of..." mean the same or not.


1- No one knows who killed her, but police suspect Sam.
2- No one knows who killed her, but police are suspicious of Sam.

To me they both mean the same thing. If I am mistaken, please let me know about their nuance.

PS. Unfortunately, I did not find the similar thread quite helpful.

  • More likely, the victim would have been suspicious of Sam. Saying that of the police makes me think that Sam might steal their lunch boxes. If you are suspicious of someone, you distrust them. Commented Nov 14, 2020 at 20:00
  • May I ask you to elaborate on your point @WeatherVane?
    – A-friend
    Commented Nov 14, 2020 at 20:09
  • 2
    The police think Sam committed the crime, so they suspect him. If they think he might do something wrong, they are suspicious of him. Commented Nov 14, 2020 at 20:11
  • Does this answer your question? Commented Nov 14, 2020 at 20:22
  • 1
    No, it's not about degree of possibility: Sam is on a list of suspects at the police station who could have committed the crime: they suspect him. But the police might be suspicious of someone who has not done anything wrong, but are 100% certain that it is only a matter of time before it happens. Or a 1% percent possibility: they just don't trust him. Or they might see someone coming out of the back door of a bank and are suspicious, but no crime is yet known to have been committed, so there is nothing to suspect. Commented Nov 14, 2020 at 20:37

2 Answers 2


In the context here only

No one knows who killed her, but police suspect Sam.

is correct. It means that the police have some evidence against Sam or some other reason to suspect him/her but perhaps not yet enough to arrest or bring a formal charge. Members of the general public might be suspicious of Sam as they do not trust them to behave legally but that is not the same as being a suspect.


Suspicious is an attitude: the way you feel toward somebody. It may have no objective grounds at all, and needn't be tied to any particular event - indeed, there may not have been any relevant event at all.

Suspect (a person) is a verb, meaning something like "consider or hold the possibility that the person is responsible for a particular act that has happened, or a class of act that may happen".

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