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At Your Service: Understanding the “Servir” Conjugation in French

Servir is a French verb with many different meanings, but the most widely used and the most important translation is “to serve”. You can use this verb to talk about serving food, pouring drinks, helping people, and also to explain the purpose of something. The servir conjugation in French can help you in a lot of different situations.

Meaning of the Servir Conjugation in French

1. The old meaning of “servir” was to serve in the sense of a servant, carrying out domestic chores. As servants no longer exist, or the role has been replaced by more respectable titles such as housekeeper, the word is now rarely used in this way.

  • Le majordome a servi la famille pendant 30 ans – The butler served the family for 30 years

2. The primary meaning of “servir” nowadays is “to serve” in the context of bringing and presenting food and drink.

  • Le personnel de restauration servira du champagne à l’arrivée des invités – The catering staff will serve champagne as the guests arrive
  • Le serveur a servir du bœuf à un végétarien, c’était un énorme scandale – The waiter served beef to a vegetarian, it was a huge scandal

3. As well as serving drinks when a waiter brings drinks to a table, it can also be used to say “pour”.

  • “Puis-je vous servir un peu de vin ?” – Can I pour you some wine?

4. It can also be used to express the purpose of something, which could be translated to “serve as” or “function as”.

  • A quoi sert cet objet ? – What is this object used for?

5. Servir can also mean serve in the sense of “to help”

  • Je fais du bénévolat pour servir ma communauté – I volunteer to serve my community
  • Il est très gentil, il propose toujours de servir les autres – He’s very nice and always offers to help others

6. Another common use of the verb is when talking about serving a customer, as in attending to them in a store.

  • Laura sert les clients du magasin avec un grand sourire – Laura serves the shop’s customers with a big smile

7. Servir can also be used to talk about serving in sports, such as a serve in tennis, as well as to deal cards to players in a card game. Servir can also mean “to attend a mass in church”, and finally “to serve in the army.”

Things to Know About the Servir Conjugation

There are some important things to note about the servir conjugation in French:

  1. Firstly, it’s part of the French third verb group. Verbs in the third group are all irregular, because they don’t fit into the regular first and second groups. They can differ hugely, however, they may follow a pattern or share a likeness with other verbs with the same ending. In this case, “servir” has a few things in common with other -ir verbs, such as “sortir”.
  2. The “v” in the stem disappears in the present singular, for example, “tu sers”.
  3. As we will see in the compound tenses below, this verb is conjugated with the auxiliary “avoir”.
  4. The verb to serve can be direct transitive, indirect transitive or intransitive.

Conjugation of Servir Present Tense

For “-ir”verbs in the third group, the endings are easy to remember: S, S, T, and then the usual endings for the plural subjects.

The stem of servir is “ser” without the V for singular subjects in the present tense, but with the V for the plural subjects we, you and they.

Je sersI serve
Tu sersYou serve
Il/elle sertHe/she/it serves
Nous servonsWe serve
Vous servezYou serve (formal/plural)
Ils/elle serventThey serve
  • La vendeuse sert les clients avec enthousiasme – The shop assistant serves the customers enthusiastically
  • Les bougies servent de lumière en cas de coupure d’électricité – Candles serve as a light during a power cut

Servir Conjugation Imperfect Tense

Habits and continuous actions in the past can be talked about using the imperfect tense. To form it, simply take the stem of the verb, which in this case is “serv” and add the imperfect endings, which never change.

Je servaisI used to serve / was serving
Tu servaisYou used to serve / were serving
Il/elle/on servaitHe/she/it used to serve / was serving
Nous servionsWe used to serve / were serving
Vous serviezYou used to serve / were serving (formal/plural)
Ils/elles servaientThey used to serve / were serving
  • Quand j’étais jeune, je servais souvent mes voisins en faisant les courses pour eux – When I was young, I used to help my neighbors by doing their grocery shopping
  • Nous servions toujours le dîner à 19 heures – We always used to serve dinner at 7 p.m.

Servir Conjugation in French Passé Composé

The passé composé is the most common past tense in French. The majority of verbs use the auxiliary “avoir” followed by the past participle. The last participle of servir is “servi”, and we do not need subject-verb agreement when the auxiliary is avoir. We will look at when to use the auxiliary être with the verb servir just below.

J’ai serviI served
Tu as serviYou served
Il/elle/on a serviHe/she/it served
Nous avons serviWe served
Vous avez serviYou served (formal/plural)
Ils/elles ont serviThey served
  • J’ai servi un délicieux gâteau lors de la fête d’anniversaire – Last night, I served a delicious cake at the birthday party
  • Elle a servi les personnes âgées en offrant son aide pour les tâches quotidiennes – She helped the elderly by offering assistance with daily tasks

While the normal verb is paired with the auxiliary avoir, reflexive verbs are paired with the auxiliary être. Reflexive verbs, in French “les verbes pronominaux”, have the same subject and direct object, for example “I wash myself”. The verb “servir” is so frequently used as a reflexive verb, that it is important for French language learners to know both the non-reflexive and the reflexive forms.

Se servir in passé composé

The reflexive verb “se servir” means to serve or help oneself. This is a very common use of the verb “servir”. Note that in this form, past tense verbs with the auxiliary “être” must agree with the subject. If a female is speaking, add an “e” to the verb, if the subject is plural, add an “s” and so on.

Je me suis servi·eI served myself
Tu t’es servi·eYou served yourself
Il/elle/on s’est servi·eHe/she/it served himself/herself/itself
Nous nous sommes servi·e·sWe served ourselves
Vous vous êtes servi·e·sYou served yourselves (formal/plural)
Ils/elles se sont servi·e·sThey served themselves
  • Elle s’est servie sans attendre les autres – She helped herself without waiting for the others
  • Nous nous sommes servis car il était tard et on avait faim – We helped ourselves because it was late and we were hungry

Servir Conjugation in le Futur Simple

There are two kinds of future tense that we can use in spoken and written French. The first is called the simple future. This is used with things that might happen in the future, things we want to happen, or things that are hypothetical. What’s important is that there is uncertainty. If you are sure of what is going to happen, then you can use the futur proche instead. The simple future tense is used by adding the usual future endings onto the future stem, which must always end in the letter “r”.

Je serviraiI will serve
Tu servirasYou will serve
Il/elle/on serviraHe/she/it will serve
Nous servironsWe will serve
Vous servirezYou will serve
Ils/elles servirontThey will serve
  • Demain, tu servira le déjeuner à midi – Tomorrow, you will serve lunch at noon
  • Vous servirez le repas avant le début de la cérémonie – You will serve the meal before the start of the ceremony

Servir Conjugation in le Futur Proche

The other future tense is “le futur proche” which means the near future. This is used for things that are quite sure, rather than less concrete wishes and intentions. It is also used for things that will happen imminently rather than in the more distant future. We form sentences in the near future by conjugating the verb “aller”, meaning “to go”, followed by the infinitive form of a verb.

Je vais servirI’m going to serve
Tu vas servirYou’re going to serve
Il/elle/on va servirHe/she/it is going to serve
Nous allons servirWe are going to serve
Vous allez servirYou are going to serve (formal/plural)
Ils/elles vont servirThey are going to serve
  • Ce soir, nous allons servir un dîner spécial pour l’anniversaire de ma sœur – Tonight, we’re going to serve a special dinner for my sister’s birthday
  • Ils vont servir le dessert dès que tout le monde sera assis – They are going to serve the dessert as soon as everyone is seated

Servir Conjugation in the Pluperfect

We can use this compound tense to express an action that occurred before another past action. This helps to give context or emphasize the order of events. It is formed with the auxiliary verb “avoir”, conjugated in the imperfect tense, followed by the past participle “servi”.

J’avais serviI had served
Tu avais serviYou had served
Il/elle/on avait serviHe/she/it had served
Nous avions serviWe had served
Vous aviez serviYou had served (plural/formal)
Ils/elles avaient serviThey had served
  • Avant que je n’arrive, elle avait déjà servi le repas – Before I arrived, she had already served the meal
  • Elles étaient fatiguées parce qu’elles avaient servi toute la journée – They were tired because they had been serving all day

Servir Conjugation in the French Conditional

The French conditional mood enables us to express hypothetical situations, polite requests, or uncertainty about the future. It is formed with the future stem of the verb, which is often the infinitive form, and the imperfect endings.

Je serviraisI would serve
Tu serviraisYou would serve
Il/elle/on serviraitHe/she/it would serve
Nous servirionsWe would serve
Vous serviriezYou would serve
Ils/elles serviraientThey would serve
  • Si j’avais plus de temps, je te servirais volontiers – If I had more time, I would gladly help you
  • Il vous servirait lui-même, mais il est occupé – He would serve you himself, but he is busy

Useful French Phrases with Servir Conjugation

The verb servir is commonly used in the French language, so here are some examples of specific phrases that are often heard, and a couple of expressions that you may come across too.

1. Sers-toi / Servez-vous – Help yourself

It’s important to know how to tell people to go ahead and serve themselves, without waiting to be served by someone else.

  • Servez-vous, et vite, avant que le plat ne refroidisse – Help yourselves, and quickly before the dish gets cold

2. Ne servir à rien – To be no good

Literal translation: To serve for nothing

  • Ce couteau ne sert à rien, il ne coupe même pas – This knife is no good, it doesn’t even cut

3. Se servir de sa tête – To use your head/noggin

Literal translation: To use one’s head

  • Ce n’est pas difficile, sers-toi de ta tête ! – It’s not hard, use your head!

4. Servir d’intermédiaire – To be the middleman

Literal translation: To serve as intermediary

  • Vous pouvez lui dire vous-même, je ne sers pas d’intermédiaire. – You can tell him yourself, I’m not the middleman

5. Servir quelque chose sur un plateau – To hand somebody something on a plate

Literal translation: To serve something on a tray

  • Ils n’ont pas travaillé un seul jour de leur vie, on leur a servi tout sur un plateau – They haven’t worked a day in their lives, they’ve been handed everything to them on a plate

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