How did the prosecutor track this suspect down?
How did the prosecutor track this suspect?

Is there any difference in meaning in the above two sentences?
How does adding the word down make a difference
If someone could also parse this grammatically it would be really helpful like subject, object, verb etc...

  • Whatever you do, don't split a phrase like "track down" -- It should be, "How did the prosecutor track down this suspect" not "...track this suspect down."
    – user8356
    Jun 7, 2023 at 19:46
  • @user8356 That's not a real rule, not unless they're split so far apart that the sentence becomes hard to follow. "Track this suspect down" is fine. Jun 7, 2023 at 20:11

2 Answers 2


To track is to follow or pursue. To track down is to follow or pursue, ultimately successfully finding or apprehending the suspect.

track down is resultative:
Wikipedia resultative

It describes a process, including its result.

The subject is prosecutor, the object is suspect, and the verb is track down.

In the U.S., at least, tracking down is the job of the police, not of the prosecutor.

  • Note that the prosecutor might 'track down' a suspect figuratively in a legal sense. Jun 6, 2023 at 20:57
  • Prosecutors may well track down witnesses, but I agree it would be unusual for them to track down suspects. Especially since prosecutors are normally not involved until there’s some sort of actual trial or court case, at which point it would no longer be the suspect, but the accused or the defendant. Jun 7, 2023 at 10:37

"Track" and "track down" are two different verbs.

The first, "track", is defined:

1 a : to follow the tracks or traces of

It means to follow the path where someone or something is or has been based on evidence. It doesn't imply successfully finding the object of the search.

To "track down" is a separable phrasal verb which means to successfully locate someone or something by tracking it.

So, your first sentence means the prosecutor successfully found the suspect, while in your second sentence, the result of tracking the suspect is unclear.

  • Other examples of phrasal verbs are ‘bear down’, ‘break down’, ‘shake down’, and ‘take down’; all have a meaning distinct from (though indirectly related to) their main verb.
    – gidds
    Jun 7, 2023 at 20:07

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