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One man and I were crossing a busy Beijing intersection and were almost across when tour buses cut us off from both sides and we stood between them as they passed. He smiled at me and said "我们过去了!' I took it as a joke "we're done for." But later I wondered could he be reassuring me "we're (almost) across."

Can anyone here be sure about it?

Edit: fuller context. I had tried to cross alone and was just giving up because of general heavy traffic. He had seen me start and started himself. When I saw him starting I joined him. As the buses bore down on us I started smiling -- I thought they would not hit us but I really should not be there. He spoke while we were pinned in place, not after the buses passed. I may have missed hearing him say 不 in "过不去"but 不 is one of my better words and it was obvious we would soon make it.

My first thought, and my later second one, both involve 了 in the sense of what is about to become finished: either we are about to pass away (to use an English idiom close to the Chinese), or our crossing is about to succeed.

I am not sure I heard right. I am not sure what he meant. But these are the things I do know.

Edit: Another consideration. No one has mentioned this, but how likely is it that someone (a stranger, to be clear about it) would joke about being dead (过去了)? That is what I thought he was doing at the time but maybe it is not plausible.

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Are you sure you heard "我们过去了" not "我们过不去了"? In my opinion the second case make more sense and that is most people will say in that situation. –  JSC Sep 26 '13 at 21:57
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I think he literally said 'we made it' and meant 'we've nailed it' since you said you were almost across. –  NS.X. Sep 26 '13 at 22:28
    
I think a native speaker would tend to say 我们过来了 if he has really crossed the street. –  user58955 Sep 26 '13 at 23:20
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5 Answers

up vote 3 down vote accepted

我们过去了: we passed/crossed/went through; we'd plan to go there / etc. coz 过去 has lots of meaning should be specified by the context.

for example: (maybe on telephone, B are not visible for A.)

A: 你们还在火车轨这边吗?(Are you still at this side of the railway?)

B: 不,我们过去了。(No. We crossed.)

another example: (maybe on telephone too)

A: 你们看到Joe了吗?他现在正在市政厅。 (Did you see Joe? She is just in the city hall.)

B: 真的吗?我们就在附近。那我们过去了。 (Really? We are closed there. So, we'd plan to go there now.)

one more example. this is some grammar wrong in this example but it's quite usual in oral Chinese.

A: 你们可以去办公室找他。(You can go to the office to find him.)

B: 我们过去了,但是他不在。(We went there but he was not.)

In this situation 我们过去了 should be changed to 我们去过了, but in oral Chinese that's acceptable.

And also, you know 过去了 has the meaning of dead but they are not same. For example in English, we can say "He went to heaven last night" but "go to heaven" does not always equal to die, "I dreamed to go to heaven to meet angels" is not equal to "I want to die", right? The same in Chinese, saying 死了 may be too tough in some situation, so we can use 过去了 because 过世了、去世了 are equal to died and we just pick a part from those words to use 过去了. One thing need to be mentioned is, if you talk with a Chinese, unless you got very clearly context, don't consider 过去了 as died. In most situation, they are not same.

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considered about your fuller context, it should be like the 1st situation. –  Allen St.Clair Oct 1 '13 at 9:54
    
The phrase "passed away" is so natural in English, and seems so much like 过去了, that by myself I would never have thought of 过去了 condensing the two phrases 过世了 and 去世了. That is very nice. –  Colin McLarty Oct 1 '13 at 11:07
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@ColinMcLarty 过去 is not the 'acronym' from 过世+去世. Instead, it's an omission of the verb 死 (die) before 过去. The full version is 死过去了 (pass away). Similarly 昏过去了 (faint away) can also become 过去了 in proper context, e.g. 他中暑了,一下子就过去了,还好很快就醒过来了。He had sunstroke and fainted away. Fortunately he woke up not long after. –  NS.X. Oct 1 '13 at 19:21
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Probably more natural to be 「我们过去啦!」, which means "Let's go across [the intersection]!"

Reasoning:

  1. 啦 can be mistaken as 了 in this context, especially when the stress is on 过去 so that the 啦 is pronounced through quick.

  2. Your friend was smiling, which may imply a positive mood, and the imperative with 啦 can serve as an appropriate expression here.

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He may have been in a positive mood. Neither of us really expected to get hit. But I did not like being there and I doubt he did either. One thing I like a lot about China is how easily people laugh in the face of problems. –  Colin McLarty Sep 27 '13 at 17:25
    
Glad to see that you enjoy living with those optimistic Chinese people. So next time better ask the speaker to explain it himself. Nor can I catch every words by my friends. Life is not so dull as movie, where scripts are always there. –  congliu Sep 27 '13 at 18:19
    
I apologize if I have bothered you. Anyway, laughing is not the same as being optimistic. As to this guy, there was no time to ask after we got across the street. –  Colin McLarty Sep 27 '13 at 19:02
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I believe that he meant to say "let's go".

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In this situation, he may mean "Let's go" as the bus may have passed and you have a chance to cross the intersection.

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I did not describe the situation well enough. We were in the middle of heavy traffic. As soon as the bus passed us we were gone with no time for talk. –  Colin McLarty Sep 30 '13 at 23:30
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Here still comes the usage of "了".

Just like what I said in this thread (but very unfortunately, they don't believe me……)Haha.——"了" sometimes, in different kinds of context, this will mean something or somebody will do something immediately, or something is happening Especially for a non-persistance verb such as "come", "go".

我去了:I am to go.

他来了:He's coming.

火车到来了:The train is coming.

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Yes, anyone who does not believe you about this is mistaken. One textbook discussion is in Basic Patterns of Chinese Grammar: A Student's Guide to Correct Structures and Common Errors by the Herzbergs, Qin Xue and Larry. Or see p. 213 of Mandarin Chinese: A Functional Reference Grammar by Charles N. Li and Sandra A. Thompson which can be seen on line at Amazon. –  Colin McLarty Sep 27 '13 at 14:25
    
See the excellent discussion at www.sinosplice.com/life/archives/2009/11/19/aspect-not-tense –  Colin McLarty Sep 27 '13 at 17:55
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