American English

Definition of serve verb from the Oxford Advanced American Dictionary



    Verb Forms present simple I / you / we / they serve
    he / she / it serves
    past simple served
    -ing form serving
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  1. 1[transitive, intransitive] to give someone food or drink, for example at a restaurant or during a meal serve (something) Breakfast is served between 7 and 10 a.m. Pour the sauce over the pasta and serve immediately. Shall I serve? serve something with something Serve the lamb with new potatoes and green beans. serve something to somebody They served a wonderful meal to more than fifty delegates. serve somebody with something The delegates were served with a wonderful meal. serve somebody something She served us a delicious lunch. serve something + adj. The quiche can be served hot or cold.
  2. 2[transitive] serve somebody/something (of an amount of food) to be enough for someone or something This dish will serve four hungry people.
  3. customers
  4. 3[transitive, intransitive] serve (somebody) to help a customer or sell them something in a store Please tell us about your experience so that we can serve you better. She was serving behind the counter.
  5. be useful
  6. 4[transitive] serve something/somebody to be useful to someone in achieving or satisfying something These experiments serve no useful purpose. Most of their economic policies serve the interests of big business. How can we best serve the needs of future generations? His linguistic ability served him well in his chosen profession.
  7. provide something
  8. 5[transitive] to provide an area or a group of people with a product or service serve somebody/something The center will serve the whole community. serve somebody/something by something The town is well served by buses and major highways.
  9. be suitable
  10. 6[intransitive] serve (as something) to be suitable for a particular use, especially when nothing else is available The sofa will serve as a bed for a night or two.
  11. have particular result
  12. 7[intransitive] to have a particular effect or result serve as something The judge said the punishment would serve as a warning to others. serve to do something The attack was unsuccessful and served only to alert the enemy.
  13. work
  14. 8[intransitive, transitive] to work or perform duties for a person, an organization, a country, etc. serve (as something) He served as a captain in the army. serve in/on/with something She served in the medical corps. serve under/with somebody He served under Richard Nixon in the 1970s. serve something I wanted to work somewhere where I could serve the community. serve somebody (as something) He served the family faithfully for many years (= as a servant).
  15. 9[transitive, intransitive] to spend a period of time in a particular job or training for a job serve something He served a one-year apprenticeship. serve as something She was elected to serve as secretary of the local Independent Party.
  16. time in prison
  17. 10[transitive] serve something to spend a period of time in prison prisoners serving life sentences She is serving two years for theft. He has served time (= been to prison) before.
  18. official document
  19. 11[transitive] (law) to give or send someone an official document, especially one that orders them to appear in court serve something (on somebody) to serve a writ/summons on someone serve somebody with something to serve someone with a writ/summons
  20. in sports
  21. 12[intransitive, transitive] (in tennis, etc.) to start playing by throwing the ball into the air and hitting it Who's serving? serve something She served an ace.
  22. Idioms
    first come, first served (saying)
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    people will be dealt with, seen, etc. strictly in the order in which they arrive Tickets are available on a first come, first served basis.
    if (my) memory serves me well, correctly, etc.
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    if I remember correctly
    it serves somebody right (for doing something)
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    used to say that something that has happened to someone is their own fault and they deserve it She left you? It serves you right for being so selfish.
    serve two masters
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    (usually used in negative sentences) to support two opposing parties, principles, etc. at the same time
    Phrasal Verbsserve somethingoutserve somethingup
See the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary entry: serve