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serve (one) right
To be or deliver the appropriate or deserved consequence(s) for one's improper actions. It serves John right that Dave threw him out of his party last night. He was acting like such a jerk! My girlfriend broke up with me after she found out I had been cheating on her. Serves me right, I suppose. You tripped while making fun of those kids? Serves you right!
serve (one) the same sauce
To treat one the same way that one has treated you—usually poorly. Of course she's not invited to the dinner party! She didn't invite me to her last soiree, so I'm serving her the same sauce.
serve (one's) purpose
To fit or satisfy one's requirements; to be useful for or fit to achieve one's aim, goal, or purpose. Well, it isn't a very pretty car, but it should serve our purpose just fine. Child: "But Mom, I want a smartphone!" Mother: "Nonsense, the cell phone you already have serves your purpose just fine."
serve (one's) time
To spend the amount of time in jail that is required by one's prison sentence. After serving his time, the assailant will be deported back to his home country. There's no need to harass him; he served his time and paid his debt to society.
serve (something) for (something or some reason)
1. To provide a certain type of food for a particular meal or course in a meal. We're serving chicken for dinner. Should we serve soup or salad for the first course of the meal?
2. To provide a certain type of food or drink for a particular purpose. We served champagne for a toast to the newlyweds at the end of the meal. We'll be serving some finger foods for the meet-and-greet later on.
serve (something) in (something or some place)
1. To provide a certain type of food or drink inside of a particular dish, container, or vessel. Why are you serving the soup in my finest china? That's only for special occasions! Sorry, but we'll have to serve the wine in mugs, as we ran out of clean glasses.
2. To provide or present (food or drink) inside some particular thing or location. You order at the counter, and they serve your meal in a huge double-decker bus out back. We'll be serving complimentary glasses of prosecco in the lobby.
3. To complete a period of service in some company, organization, legislature, etc. He only served two years in congress before retiring. I served nearly 10 years in the head office, and they wouldn't even pay me a severance package when I was forced out.
4. To complete some length of a sentence in prison or some other correctional facility. She'll be serving at least four years in Riker's Island for her part in the robbery. They convicted that crooked CEO of embezzling nearly $2 million, and he'll only have to serve 18 months in some cushy white-collar prison.
serve (something) to (someone or something)
1. To provide or present some food or beverage to someone, some group, some organization, etc. I can't believe you would serve veal to your guests without making sure no one had a problem with it! Honey, would you go out and serve some wine to our guests while I finish preparing dinner?
2. To provide or present a formal notice or announcement to someone, some group, some organization, etc. I can't believe he served an eviction notice to his tenants just a week before Christmas. Federal investigators served a search warrant to the multinational tech company in a crackdown on tax evasion.
serve a purpose
To fit or satisfy the necessary requirements; to be useful for or fit to achieve some aim, goal, or purpose. Well, it isn't very flashy, but this old truck ought to serve a purpose somewhere on the ranch. I hope that my lessons served a purpose in my students' lives.
To provide to or place before various people some kind of food or drink. A noun or pronoun can be used between "serve" and "around." Would you mind serving the tea around, Tom? We'll be serving around hors d'oeuvres in a little while, everyone.
serve as (something)
To act in the capacity of a particular role. I served as a legal secretary for a couple of years while I worked on my law degree. I couldn't even afford furniture, so I just had empty boxes and stacks of books acting as my tables and chairs. We'll have a limited release the product and let this region serve as a guinea pig. If it is received well, we can expand production and distribution to the rest of the county.
serve as a/(one's) guinea pig
To act or function as the object of a test, experiment, or assessment. We'll have a limited release of the product and let this region serve as a guinea pig. If it is received well, we can expand production and distribution to the rest of the country. A: "I have a wild new dish I'd like you to try!" B: "No way! I have no interest in serving as your guinea pig again."
serve as a/(one's) replacement
To take the place or fill the purpose of someone or something else. We created these wood pellets from repurposed sawdust to serve as more a ecologically friendly substitute for other fuel sources. This is Shawna, everyone. She's going to be serving as my replacement while I'm on sabbatical.
serve as a/(one's) substitute
To take the place or fill the purpose of someone or something else. We created these wood pellets from repurposed sawdust to serve as more a ecologically friendly substitute for other fuel sources. This is Shawna, everyone. She's going to be serving as my substitute while I'm on sabbatical.
serve as the driving force (behind someone or something)
To act as the instigator, catalyst, or motivator that compels someone to do something or causes something to happen. While they haven't admitted why they reversed their decision, everyone knows the lawsuit served as the driving factor. The willingness of the banks to let anyone and everyone get a mortgage, whether or not they would be able to meet their repayments, served as the single biggest driving factor behind the financial crisis. My family has always served as the driving factor behind me.
serve notice (on one)
1. To provide or present (to one) a formal announcement or proclamation. You can't just cut people's wages without serving notice in advance! The landlord served notice on the tenants that they were being evicted.
2. To make one fully aware of something. I didn't think I'd hurt myself too badly, but the struggle to get out of bed the next morning served notice to me just how much damage I had done to myself. So many people turned up for my husband's funeral, and it served notice on us how important he had been in our community.
serve on (something)
To be an official member of some body that carries out specific duties or tasks. Serving on a board of directors carries some legal responsibilities you can't take too lightly, but it is a great way to boost your résumé. I served on the president's finance committee for three years before moving to the private sector.
1. To serve something, especially food or drink, to those present. (In each usage, a noun or pronoun can be used between "serve" and "out.") I volunteer in a soup kitchen on the weekends, serving out food to those who have fallen on hard times. Will you go out into the parlor and begin serving drinks out, Tom?
2. To issue, distribute, or allot something, especially that which is deserved but unwelcome or unpleasant. We need to convince Congress to send in troops to the region so we can serve out some justice against the monsters committing these atrocities. In all of his plays, he serves punishment out to his characters in particularly cruel and ironical ways.
3. To complete the required amount of time for some service, usually as in elected positions or jail sentences. The senator was unable to serve out his full term in office due to health complications. Because of good behavior, the inmate was allowed to serve out the rest of her prison sentence in minimum security.
4. In tennis, to win an entire set or match while remaining in the serving position. I always have trouble serving out my sets. I might have a great streak going, but I invariably seem to crack under the pressure and give up the serve.
serve the purpose
To fit or satisfy the necessary requirements; to be useful for or fit to achieve some aim, goal, or purpose. Well, it isn't a very pretty car, but it should serve the purposes of our mission. Child: "But mom, I want a smartphone!" Mother: "Nonsense, the cell phone you have serves the purpose just fine."
To spend time in jail as part of a prison sentence. The CEO is now serving time for his role in defrauding thousands of customers. No way am I getting involved with your scheme. I have no interest in serving time again.
serve to do (something)
To have the function or purpose of doing something. The lighting in the scene serves to underscore the character's emotional turmoil. These are just examples—they serve to give you a sense of what the exam will look like.
serve two masters
To simultaneously tend to or support or devote oneself to two different—often conflicting—responsibilities, pursuits, ideas, or people. It comes from the Biblical phrase, "No man can serve two masters." You need to decide if you are married to your wife or to your work because you simply cannot serve two masters.
serve under (one)
1. To be in the service or under the direction of one. I have had the privilege of serving under eight different presidents in my time as the head butler of the White House.
2. To provide, present, or execute a formal notice, announcement, or action as dictated by a particular piece of legislation. In this usage, a noun or pronoun is used between "serve" and "under." Health inspectors have served four closure orders under the FDA's tough new rules this week.
serve up (something)
1. To provide, offer, or distribute some food or drink. This place serves up the best steaks in the state. The cafeteria is serving up pizza today. Every year we volunteer to serve up Thanksgiving dinner to the homeless.
2. To provide or offer some experience. They serve up an authentic medieval experience that is a joy from beginning to end. He tried serving up a few jokes to engage the audience, but they all fell flat.
3. To deliver a pitch, throw, kick, etc., of a ball or other such object used in sports. The midfielder had a promising breakaway after intercepting a cross-field pass that had been served up by the other team's winger. The forward gained control of the puck, flew down the ice, and served up a blazing shot on goal.
serve up on a plate
To give or relinquish something to someone very easily, without them having to work very hard to get or achieve it. A noun or pronoun can be used between "serve" and up." The team's defense has been atrocious today, serving a victory to their opponents up on a plate. If we can get the government to subsidize our project, we'll have our yearly earnings served up to us on a plate.
serve with (someone or something)
1. To fight in or be in service to the military alongside someone else. I'm so sorry for your loss. I served with your mother in the marines—she was an exceptional soldier. Sign up today, and serve with some of the finest people the country has to offer.
2. To provide or present a formal notice or announcement to someone, some group, some organization, etc. In this usage, a noun or pronoun is used between "serve" and "with." I can't believe he served us with an eviction notice the week before Christmas. Federal investigators served the multinational tech company with a search warrant in an effort to crack down on tax evasion.
3. To provide some kind of food or beverage alongside something different. Often used in passive constructions. In this usage, a noun or pronoun is used between "serve" and "with." They're serving fish with red wine? How uncouth! The chicken is served with green beans and mashed potatoes.
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.
Serve a (useful) purpose
to be useful in accomplishing some purpose. This large book should serve a useful purpose. We can use it for a doorstop.
serve something around
to distribute something to eat or drink to everyone present. Please serve the snacks around so that everyone gets some. Serve around the birthday cakes, would you?
serve something out
to carry out one's duty or responsibility for the whole time, all the way to the end. She was unable to serve her term out. The convict served out his sentence in solitary confinement.
to spend a certain amount of time in jail. The criminal served ten years in jail. After the felon served his time, he was released from prison.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs. © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
serve a purpose
Also, serve one's or the purpose . Be useful, meet the needs or requirements, satisfy, as in I don't know why they've added all this information but it probably serves a purpose, or It often serves his purpose to be vague, or We don't have a spading fork but this shovel should serve the purpose. This idiom was first recorded in 1513.
Undergo a prison sentence; also, work at a particular task, especially an undesirable one. For example, We couldn't hire him when we learned that he had served time for robbery, or I applied for a transfer after serving time in that chaotic department. [Late 1800s]
The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer. Copyright © 2003, 1997 by The Christine Ammer 1992 Trust. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
serve two mastersFORMAL
If a person or organization tries to serve two masters, they try to be loyal to two opposing principles, beliefs or organizations. An organization such as the BBC can either make a profit or provide an excellent public service. It cannot, however, be asked to serve two masters. Note: This expression is used in the Bible. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says: `No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other.' (Matthew 6:24, Luke 16:13)
Collins COBUILD Idioms Dictionary, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2012
serve two masterstake orders from two superiors or follow two conflicting or opposing principles or policies at the same time.
This phrase alludes to the warning given in the Bible against trying to serve both God and Mammon (Matthew 6:24).
Farlex Partner Idioms Dictionary © Farlex 2017
serve two ˈmasters(usually used in negative sentences) support two opposing parties, principles, etc. at the same time: Government ministers are not allowed to work for private companies as nobody can serve two masters at once.This expression comes from the Bible.
Farlex Partner Idioms Dictionary © Farlex 2017
To complete some period of service: The criminal served out his sentence in a minimum security prison. After she serves out her term as governor, she will probably run for the Senate.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of Phrasal Verbs. Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.