What is servire a in Italian?
The expression servire a is used in Italian to describe the purpose something serves (yes, servire on its own can also mean to serve).
Let’s have a look at some examples first:
A che cosa serve questo?
What is this used for?
Non serve a niente.
It is useless. (It does not serve any purpose.)
How to use servire a?
This expression might be a bit tricky to use, but it is really common to hear it in Italian conversations, and it will make you a little closer to sounding like a native speaker!
You can use it, for example, if you want to know what is the purpose of an object or action.
Let’s have a look at the following examples:
A cosa serve questa corda?
What is this rope (made or used) for?
A cosa servirebbe dirglielo?
What would be the use of telling him?
For using servire a, in a positive or negative sentence, you need to conjugate the verb servire in the 3rd person singular (lei serve, lui serve) or plural (loro servono) according to the subject and add an infinitive verb after the preposition a.
Il cavatappi serve ad aprire le bottiglie di vino.
The corkscrew is used to open wine bottles.
Queste corde servono a scendere dalla montagna in modo sicuro.
These ropes are made or used for descending the mountain safely.
This expression is usually followed by a verb in the infinitive, but it can sometimes be followed by a noun, for example with niente (nothing) or a pronoun, if referring to something already mentioned or implied.
In both cases, it is as if the verb fare were omitted.
Non serve a (fare) niente.
It is useless.
Attento, non serve a (fare) quello.
Be careful, it isn’t used for that.
Servire a: more examples
As we already mentioned, servire a can be used both with objects or actions, in the singular or plural form.
Have a look at some more examples of how to use it in context.
Un coltellino svizzero può servire a fare mille cose diverse.
A Swiss knife can be used for many different things.
Questo tubo serve a far arrivare l’acqua fino alla casa.
This pipe is used to get the water all the way to the house.
Non serve a niente andare adesso, è troppo tardi.
It is useless to go now, it is too late.
A che cosa serve questo pulsante?
What is this button for?