I am confused by the meaning of "be served" between the two sentences.

no alcoholic drinks will be served at official business receptions,


All humanity would be served . . . even if a tiny handful of them had to suffer for it.

The first one is easy to understand. If on the basis of the meaning of the first sentence, the second would be mean that all humanity should sacrifice something.

But I wonder it means all humnity would be benifited from it.


  • Have you looked this word up in the dictionary to see that it has more than one meaning? – Tᴚoɯɐuo Oct 21 '18 at 11:31
  • This reminds me of the famous Twilight Zone episode "To Serve Man" in which the meaning of the word serve was deliberately misunderstood to great effect. – Jason Bassford Supports Monica Oct 21 '18 at 17:55

Consider these different expressions:

Alcoholic drinks will be served [to people] by waiters at business receptions.

People will be served alcoholic drinks by waiters at business receptions.

The sentences above say pretty much the same thing. As you can see, the drinks can be served to people, or people can be served the drinks. In the first sentence, the phrase "to people" can be safely assumed (unless it's a party for dogs), so it is common to omit the phrase. This first sentence is an example of a sentence containing an intransitive verb. The second sentence has a direct object of "alcoholic drinks," and so will be served is an example of a transitive verb.

The second example can be re-stated like this:

All humanity would be served by a tiny handful of people... even if the tiny handful had to suffer for it.

In this sentence, the verb is once again intransitive. It is a way of saying that all of humanity could benefit from the suffering of a small number of people.

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