How will you translate this phrase into Chinese when you come across it? Some people will say unthinkingly: “活到老,学到老”. Isn’t it wrong by using this translation with many dictionaries’ notes? Actually it is not right.

Let us have a look at how the dictionary (Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English-new version) does give the explanation. It shows at the 20th notes that you live and learn, with the meaning of “used to say that you have just learned something that you did not know before”. Also it is marked that the phrase with that meaning is used in Spoken English.

Let us analyze the structure, which means that as long as one lives one can always learn new things (只要活着,不管年龄多大,总能学到新东西)。Usually it refers to the time when the person get the meaning surprisingly and he/she has already wide range of knowledge. There are three accurate explanations in English-Chinese dictionary, they are “真是活一天学一天”, “真是活到老,学不了”,“真想不到”。Actually the phrase could be translated into following words: “真没想到我又学到了一点新东西” 或 “没想到原来这里还有名堂呢!”

In Chinese, the sentence “活到老,学到老” aims to encourage us to study constantly and do not be proud of the things what he/she gets and owns. It emphasizes the action or process of study. So the English translation for this phrase should be like this “Keep studying as long as you live/all your life”. The word “learn” is a verb which stresses the result.

In the same way, there are many meanings for the word “and”, not only refer to the meaning of “和”。 For example, if we converse the places of “live and learn”, that is “learn and live”, which has another meaning of “只有学会了如何生活才能活得有意义”。And this phrase “live and let live”, has the meaning of bearing others and be tolerant, “自己好好活,也要让别人好好活。”

The word “and” could be used to connect the words, phrases, clause, sentences and paragraphs. From the grammar and structure respective, it has parallel relationship. But from the meaning respective, “and” has the meaning of the reason and transit relationship. If the quantity of examples exceeds 3, they should be connected by the word “and”.

For example: A, B, and C.

Many people will translate them into “甲,乙和丙”, this word “和” will let people think “甲” is one side, and “乙和丙” is the other side. While The actual translation should be “甲、乙、丙(三者)”。

Since there are so many meanings for the term “and”, so it will not be easy for us to catch the actual meaning for the phrase “live and learn”.