To make their democracy work, citizens not only had to take part in the assemblies, serve as government officials and pay taxes, but also had to pay an active role in the administration of justice

I have got no idea whether the meaning is "help government officials" or "work as government officials"

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    The preposition as is crucial. Without it, the meaning would indeed be "help government officials" as you suggested. But that's not what the writer meant. Commented Jun 4, 2018 at 13:37

2 Answers 2


It means to work as government officials. When the phrase is 'serve as' it means 'to work/act as.' So if you asked a friend to serve as the officiant at your wedding, you are asking them to act as the officiant.


You will find "serve" used in place of "work" in certain settings.

When it comes to government officials, these are often termed "public servants" or similar. Even persons working in lower-ranking public service roles in many countries are still considered to be working for the most senior official in the country, and traditionally persons working for such a high ranking person have been termed "servants". For example in the UK persons employed in public service such as local administration, social security etc are called civil servants, or officially Her Majesty's Civil Servants. The British Prime Minister is considered to be the most high-ranking civil servant. It is also used for someone in the armed forces, as this is considered to be in the service of your country.

It also seems to be the case, as in your quotation, of countries where national service applies; that is some form of compulsory service to the country, either in the military or in another public service capacity.

  • Thank you so much.but do you mean that in my qoutation "serve as government official" means " people work like servants for country" or "people have to work as servants, for example in some countries people have to serve as soldiers for two years" ?! Sorry my english is not good if you correct my mistakes I would really appreciate it. Commented Jun 5, 2018 at 12:15

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