The following is from The African Queen by C. S. Forester

"I'll bury 'im, Miss," said Allnutt. "Don't you worry yourself, Miss. I'll do it all right. I know some of the service. I've 'eard it often enough."

Rose pulled herself together.

"I have my prayer book here. I can read the service," she said, keeping her voice from trembling.

I am guessing the 'service' here means a funeral service because they are about to bury someone. Then how can you read the funeral service?

Does the second 'service' mean a 'prayer'? Or does 'read the service' mean 'read passages from the prayer book during the service'?


"Read the service" is an idiomatic way to say "Read the text of the standard service from the prayer book".

You could also say do the service (especially if you have memorized it and are not reading from the book), or perform the service (if you are acting in a more-or-less official capacity). You can also give the service (in the same way as to give a performance) or lead the service.

  • @whitecap "Give the service" is another. – Andrew Nov 26 '17 at 19:39

"service" is not only the ceremony but, as you say, the passages from the prayer book.

See under 3a here:

3 a : a form followed in worship or in a religious ceremony - the burial service

Even the first "service" might mean all the steps that have to be followed when burying someone, prayers included.

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