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Using 'Servir'

Verb Frequently Used To Indicate Usefulness or Suitability


Although the verb servir can usually be translated as "serve" in the broadest sense of the English word, servir is used quite frequently to indicate suitability or usefulness in some way. As such, the most natural translation varies considerably with the context.

Here are some examples of this usage of servir. Translations given aren't the only possible ones:

  • No sirvo para nada. I'm not good for anything.
  • El iPad sirve para entretener a tus mascotas. The iPad works for entertaining your pets.
  • ¿De qué sirve el dinero si eres incapaz de ayudar a los que amas? Of what use is money if you can't help those you love?
  • Me sirven bien los lentes de contacto. Contact lenses work well for me.
  • La repetición sí sirve para aprender. Repetition definitely is useful for learning.
  • Evidentemente no le sirven estos zapatos. Obviously these shoes don't fit him. (Or, less specifically, depending on the context, "obviously these shoes aren't suitable for him.")
  • Los insectos se pueden servir de alimento en tiempos de necesidad. Insects can be used as food during lean times.
  • ¿Para qué sirve? What's it used for?
  • Me servirás de gran utilidad. You'll be of great use to me.
  • Otra actividad te serviría de distracción. Another activity would work as a distraction for you.

Servir can also be used as the equivalent of "serve" in many contexts:

  • Sirvió tres años en el ejército. He served for three years in the army.
  • El tenista alemán sirvió primero. The German tennis player served first.
  • Hay dos salas donde se sirve el desayuno a los huéspedes. There are two rooms where breakfast is served to the guests.
  • ¿En qué puedo servirle? How can I serve you?

Keep mind that servir is conjugated irregularly, following the conjugation pattern of vestir. Here are some of the common conjugations:

Present indicative (I serve, you serve, etc.): Yo sirvo, tú sirves, él/ella/usted sirve, nosotros servimos, vosotros servís, ellos/ellas/ustedes sirven.

Preterite indicative (I served, you served, etc.): Yo serví, tú serviste, él/ella/usted sirvió, nosotros servimos, vosotros servistes, ellos/ellas/ustedes sirvieron.

Present subjunctive (that I serve, that you serve, etc.): Que yo sirva, que tú sirvas, que él/ella/usted sirva, que nosotros sirvamos, que vosotros sirváis, que ellos/ellas/ustedes sirvan.

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