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To quote from The New York Times article "There’s a Better Way to Reclaim Your Time Than ‘Quiet Quitting’ "

When you’re exhausted and overwhelmed, it feels like something needs to give — and for many, that seems to be the pursuit of excellence at work.

Here the words something needs to give clearly means when you are exhausted you give up (or let go) something, so why did the article write it feels like something needs to give? I looked it up from longman, https://www.ldoceonline.com/dictionary/give but I can't find a clear example for that.

I found a similar question asked and answer here What does 'Something has got to give' mean? but I feel that did not answer my question.

If something that supports or holds something gives, it breaks... This can be (and often is) used figuratively.

BTW, I attached the dual version of the article because the English version is not free.

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  • Have you looked up the idiom in dictionaries?
    – fev
    Sep 22 at 15:24
  • Yes but I can't find a clear example of show this usage, e.g. ldoceonline.com/dictionary/give Sep 22 at 15:27
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    Look up the whole idiom, I found it very easily.
    – fev
    Sep 22 at 15:32
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    This sense of give is the same as the sense of give out. I.e, The water pump gave out, and took the timing belt with it. It means 'break, fracture, collapse, stop functioning', and the out is not necessary in context -- I think if you press down here, this piece will give, and you can open it. Sep 22 at 16:04
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    If you are exhausted and overwhelmed, pursuit of excellence will just make your situation worse. So you are misusing the idiom
    – Lambie
    Sep 22 at 20:11

2 Answers 2

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"Give" could be used here in the sense of "give out" (which is very closely related to "give up" - saying "the water pump gave out" is virtually the same as saying "the water pump gave up").

But in my opinion it really means "give" in the sense of: "alter in shape under pressure rather than resist or break.". For example

the chair gave a little when the heavy person sat on it.

Similarly

The stuck door gave when the team leaned on it

may mean that the door was broken open, but may also mean it just opened under pressure.

I base this opinion on the fact that when saying that work "gives" it doesn't mean they stop doing it, or even stop doing it well, it just means that they don't devote the same effort to it that they used to. The "shape" of work alters to reflect the pressure on time and energy.

The general usage is the same "something has got to give" means that there needs to be some flexibility - some "give" - in some aspect of the issue.

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In a comment John Lawler wrote:

This sense of give is the same as the sense of give out. I.e, The water pump gave out, and took the timing belt with it. It means 'break, fracture, collapse, stop functioning', and the out is not necessary in context -- I think if you press down here, this piece will give, and you can open it.

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