How to use the verb “servire”: Italian grammar lesson 92

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Servire in Italian

Servire is a regular verb of the third conjugation –IRE. In this lesson, we will learn how to use servire in Italian to express needs.

First of all, however, let’s look at its conjugation in the present, imperfetto, passato prossimo and future.

Presente
io servo
tu servi
lui, lei, Lei serve
noi serviamo
voi servite
loro, Loro servono
Imperfetto
io servivo
tu servivi
lui, lei, Lei serviva
noi servivamo
voi servivate
loro, Loro servivano​
Futuro Semplice
io servirò
tu servirai
lui, lei, Lei servirà
noi serviremo
voi servirete
loro, Loro serviranno​

Servire to express needs

to need in italian

In Italian, there are different ways of talking about things we need. For example, you might already be familiar with the expression avere bisogno di(to need, be in need of…):

Ho bisogno di due melanzane per preparare il sugo.

I need two aubergines to prepare the sauce.

Another way of talking about something we need is by using the verb servire, which literally means “to serve”.

In this case, the verb will be used with the same construction as piacere (to like).

Let’s look at some examples:

Mi serve una valigia nuova, la mia si è rotta.

I need new luggage, mine broke.

Ti serve questo libro per l’esame?

Do you need this book for the exam?

Ci servono due chili di pasta per la cena di stasera.

We need two kilos of pasta for tonight’s dinner.

Did you notice? The verb is conjugated according to the object needed, rather than the subject of the action, and the personal pronoun changes according to who needs it.

With this construction, servire means “to need“, to have the necessity for something, and it is mostly used with nouns.

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In compound tenses, like the passato prossimoit takes the auxiliary verb essere (to be) and it can mean: “to be useful”.

Ti sono serviti i miei appunti?

Were my notes useful (to you)?

Remember, with this construction used in compound tenses that take essere the ending of the participle will need to agree in gender and number with the object you’re talking about.

Mi sono servite molto le tue ricette.

Your recipes were very useful (to me).

Practice with Quizlet

Here's a set of flashcards and quizzes to practice this grammar topic.

Servire: other meanings

serve a per italian

Servire can also be used for describing what something “is used for”. In this case, the verb will be conjugated as usual, according to the subject, and will be followed by the preposition a or per and a verb in the infinitive (infinito):

A che cosa serve l’olio di cocco?

What do you use coconut oil for?

Un mestolo serve per servire le zuppe.

A ladle is used to serve soup.

Non serve a niente.

It is useless.

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