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I recently read (in a website) the following sentence. (I replaced the usernames with placeholders.)

[username1], if this is still happening, there is a good chance your IP got blocked due to failed logins. Post the IP here and track down [username2] or [username3].

  • What does "track down" mean, in that sentence?
  • Is "track down" used with that meaning in specific contexts, or is it largely understood to mean that? For example, if I am in a room together somebody else, and I say "Track down Michael." does the other person understand what I mean?
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3 Answers

up vote 2 down vote accepted

Supplementing pm_2's answer - and also relating to British English:

I would say it means "to find someone or something".

You can talk of tracking down a fault (in a machine), tracking down an error (in a computer program).

You can also talk of tracking down an object, e.g. "Can you track down an extension lead?" ('power block' in the USA, I think); "Can you track down where Fred put the invoice?"; or (to a librarian or bookseller) "Can you track down a copy of this [old / out-of-print] book, please?"

In answer to your supplemental:

"Is "track down" used with that meaning in specific contexts, or is it largely understood to mean that? For example, if I am in a room together somebody else, and I say "Track down Michael." does the other person understand what I mean?"

Personally, I would expect most fluent British (and probably American) English speakers to understand the meaning.

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(My answer relates only to British English.)

"To track down" just means "to find someone." You could use it in speech, as in your example, "Can you track down Michael?" or "I can't seem to track Michael down, do you know where he is?"

I'm not sure if the above example classes at splitting an infinitive—it probably does, as the verb in this case is "To track down"—in which case "I can't seem to track down Michael, do you know where he is?"

Although that doesn't sound right to me when said.

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It works just the same way in American English. –  Peter Shor May 11 '13 at 14:18
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To track down is to follow the track of something until found. Used for example in the Wild West using trackers to follow something or someone

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