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得过且过 déguòqiěguò without high ambitions, but getting by

I noted down the below meanings from context as below:

得 de obtain, get, gain, acquire

且 moreover 过 to go over

The components means over.. where as the meaning of 得过且过 is without high ambitions. can help explain correct usage?

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  1. The construction 得+V+且+V is a common observation in classical Chinese. In fact, consider another expression, 得饒人處且饒人 (meaning to be explained in point 4.).

  2. We understand generally as 'to pass'. But how should we understand 得⋯⋯且⋯⋯?

    in classical Chinese can be a preceding modal verb that expresses ability or possibility.

    in classical Chinese is an adverb meaning 'for the time being; at least'. Usually it is used when the speaker faces an unwelcoming situation, but has to perform a certain action, perhaps unwillingly. Its modern Chinese equivalent is 姑且;暫且.

    Combined, 得+V+且+V means 'whenever it is possible to v., v. for the time being'. Usually the action is something hard to achieve.

  3. So, 得過且過 may mean something like 'whenever it is possible to muddle through / whenever it is passable, muddle through (for the time being)'. Which is rather an aimless way of living, isn't it? Gradually, it has evolved to become an adjectival phrase in modern Chinese, and means what you see in the dictionary entry.

  4. Similarly, 得饒人處且饒人 means 'whenever it is possible to forgive others, forgive them (for the time being)'. It still retains its sentence-ness in modern Chinese, unlike 得過且過, where you can comment on someone as having an aimless attitude in life (得過且過的態度).

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    Thanks. for 且, I have used moreover and for 过 to go over, both are incorrect usage. that made me so confusing. Need to use basic meanings first, if results are not matching then only we should try other meanings usage. thanks
    – user27485
    Apr 20 at 5:53
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得 = able to

过 = pass

且 = 姑且 = make do with; tentatively

过 = pass

得过且过 literally means 'if you can pass it, pass it.' Meaning stop trying once reached the minimum requirement (not spending more effort on trying to do better)

Example: As long as I don't go hungry, I am fine with only working three days a week would be a 得过且过 attitude because I never considered if I work five days a week I can save some money for better retirement

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  • 过头 guòtóu to over do it; 过 guò to cross, to go over;; these are the meanings, i noted earlier. 过 guò pass, cross is the basic meaning as you mentioned; For 且 just, time being is also mentioned in dictionary. but i noted down as moreover (another meaning) only some how..Correct usage of the meanings is very important as chinese dictionaries had given lot of meanings for a single word I think. thanks
    – user27485
    Apr 20 at 5:46
  • for 得 you mentioned “able to” that conveys possibility capability. I am updating my notes to “able to” ;;; previously my notes looks like this......得 de 1. after a verb or an adjective to express possibility or capability 2. between a verb and its complement to express possibility 3. linking a verb or an adjective to a complement which describes the manner or degree 得 de obtain, get, gain, acquire,
    – user27485
    Apr 20 at 6:01

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