In a sentence from the novel 'Mr.Mercedes', the ex-cop Hodges said:

" You can bust a ten-year-old for possession, but try making it stick"

I don't understand what but try making it stick means.

I looked up some on-line dictionaries, but since my native language is not English, and the word 'stick' has so many different meanings, it is rather frustrating. I would appreciate it if i can find some help here.

closed as off-topic by JJJ, KarlG, TimLymington, Edwin Ashworth, Kris May 29 '18 at 12:32

This question appears to be off-topic. The users who voted to close gave this specific reason:

If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • Where is "rock"? – RubioRic May 29 '18 at 10:04
  • "You can charge him with fraud, but you'll need more evidence if you want to make the charge stick when it comes to a trial." merriam-webster.com/dictionary/make%20%28something%29%20stick – Kris May 29 '18 at 11:50
  • 1
    Welcome to ELU. Please read the FAQ (You'll even earn some bonus points for just that!). – Kris May 29 '18 at 11:53

"...try making it stick" here means that it would be tough to successfully carry the case to conviction.

When a person is "busted" (meaning that their wrong-doing has been found out), the police "frame charges". This means that they file a case with a detailed write up of the wrong-doing, including the crime, when and where it happened, who and what was involved, etc., and the person is temporarily sent to jail ("remanded to custody") or released on bail.

Later, the accused person is brought to court before a judge and jury, who will decide whether or not the charges are valid. If the police can "make the charges stick" (prove that the person committed the crime) then he/she will be convicted and punished. If they can't make the charges stick, the person will be set free.

I hope this helps.

  • Sounds highly convincing. Please cite your sources if possible. – Kris May 29 '18 at 11:46
  • I really appreciate your kind and detailed explanation. Thank you. – Heather May 30 '18 at 11:38

Good book.

According to Cambridge Dictionary


(slang) an occasion when police arrest people who are thought to have broken the law

make something stick

to show something bad that has been said about someone is true:

They've arrested him for fraud but they'll never make the charges stick.

In your context, it has the same meaning as the highligthed example.

but try making it (the charges) stick

  • 1
    @Heather You're welcome. :-) – RubioRic May 29 '18 at 11:13
  • 1
    +1 Not a native English speaker I suppose. Why not cite from an English dictionary? Good work, though! – Kris May 29 '18 at 11:48
  • @Kris Thanks! I don't get you ... Cambridge Dictionary is not made in England? (Not being ironic) Do you prefer Oxford Dictionary? Feel free to edit my post if I have got any grammar mistake. – RubioRic May 29 '18 at 11:55
  • 1
    The website is Spanish version (the dictionary itself is probably just the same as what we see in the English version). dictionary.cambridge.org/us/dictionary/english/make-sth-stick -- the English (US) version of the website. – Kris May 29 '18 at 12:01
  • @Kris Ah, ok! I think that it's the same version. Probably the location only determines the adds shown. In "my" version, Spanish language is nowhere to be found, English words explained in English. – RubioRic May 29 '18 at 12:22

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.