How to use “servire a”: Italian grammar lesson 93

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Servire a in Italian

The Italian verb servire can be used in many different contexts and it can also have different meanings.

In this lesson, we will look at how to use it with the preposition a, which creates the expression servire(to be made/used for). 

This expression is used in Italian to describe the purpose that 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.)

Servire a: how to use

serve a italian

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.

Have a look at the following examples:

A cosa serve questa corda?

What is this rope (made/used) for?

A cosa servirebbe dirglielo?

What would be the use of telling him?

To use servire a in a positive or negative sentence, you can just conjugate the verb in the third person singular (serve) or plural (servono) according to the subject, and add a verb in the infinitive 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/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.

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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

a che cosa serve italian

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 e 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?

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