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I'm working through this video and am having trouble understanding the sentence the speaker says at 9:31:

人生要就不忍,不然就請你一忍到底。

My best guess is this means "in life you don't want to have to restrain yourself, but if you have to you should do it to the very end." The second half of the sentence (不然就請你一忍到底) is fairly clear, but the phrase 要就不忍 doesn't make sense to me, in particular the use of 就 in this context.

The context is that he is talking about the story of Zhang Liang meeting Huang Shigong, who asks him to retrieve his fallen shoes and then help him put them on. The speaker says that Huang Shigong does this to teach him a moral lesson, namely the above sentence.

The next sentence or two are also difficult for me to follow. The speaker goes on to say:

非凡之人做事要就不做, 要做就必要做到乾淨漂亮。 忍耐就不要忍個半吊子, 既然已經幫人撿了鞋子, 也決定幫人穿上, 何不索興長跪履之?

The last three clauses of this make sense: "since you've already helped him retrieve his shoes and have decided to help put them on, then why not do it with a long kneel?"

However the first phares of it (非凡之人做事要就不做) is confusing to me, perhaps because of the reappearance of the phrase "要就不". Any help would appreciated!

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"要就(X )不然就(Y)" means "either (X) otherwise/ or (Y)"

(X) and (Y) are the two options for you to choose.

"要就(X = 不忍),不然就(Y = 請你一忍到底)"

"you either not restrain yourself (option X), otherwise please restrain to the very end (option Y)."

非凡之人做事(要就)不做, (一但) (要做) 就必要做到乾淨漂亮

Exceptional person (either) not act, (once)(decided to act) then he must do it cleanly and beautifully

一但(once) is omitted

"一但要做" (once decided to act) presents a different option than the first one, therefore the meaning of "otherwise" is implied. The sentence could then be interpreted as "exceptional person either not act, otherwise, he must do it cleanly and beautifully"

The two options are "不做" (not do it) and "做到乾淨漂亮" (do it cleanly and beautifully)

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人生要就不忍,不然就請你一忍到底 is tied heavily to the next quote, 非凡之人做事要就不做,要做就必要做到乾淨漂亮, which basically means don't commit to half-assed attempts at doing anything.

人生要就不忍,不然就請你一忍到底。

In life, you either don't endure, or you endure till the very end.

「就」is not translated to English here, but the structure 要不就X...要不就Y means either (commit to)/(do) X or Y, and the quote can be rewritten as the following to make this structure clearer:

人生要不就不忍,要不就請你一忍到底

  • Another structure is 要么就X……要么就Y…… – Bruce Huang Aug 4 '18 at 9:16
  • I think you're complicating matters by explaining a structure that isn't present in the given sentence, and not explaining the one that is present (or how it connects to the structure you gave). – Apollys Aug 8 '18 at 0:32

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