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Do I have to take into account the bold meaning when using "serve"? Definition: If something serves as a particular thing or serves a particular purpose, it performs a particular function, which is often not its intended function.

The space was a reading room but is now a computer room. That's to say, the intended function can't be a computer room because it used to be a reading room. In this case, I think I can say the space now serves as a computer room. But we don't know if 20 years ago the space's intended function was a reading room or not, so I think maybe I shouldn't say the space served as a reading room.

  1. The space to the left of the entrance now serves as a computer room. (Correct?)
  1. The space to the left of the entrance served as a reading room. (Incorrect?)

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    Note that the definition says "often not its intended function" (not never). Feb 28 at 14:29
  • Aren't you contradicting yourself with "the intended function of the space was actually a reading room" and "We don't know what was the intended function of that space". You seem to be talking about the same space and yet you've said two different things about its intended function. If it was built as a reading room, you'd typically say "it was a reading room" or "it was built as a reading room" not "it served as a reading room". If you don't know its original function, then you can guess but nobody's going to arrest you if you get it wrong.
    – Stuart F
    Feb 28 at 15:00
  • @StuartF, maybe you misunderstood me? That space was a reading room but is now a computer room. That's to say, the intended function can't be a computer room because it used to be a reading room. In this case, I can say the space now serves as a computer room. But we don't know if 20 years ago the space's original function was a reading room or not, so I think maybe I shouldn't say the space served as a reading room. Is this correct? I'll edit my question. Feb 28 at 15:35

2 Answers 2

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now serves as ... implies (or at least one might infer) that it formerly had a different function, because of now.

served as an X ... could imply that the originally intended use of the space was other than an X, or it could indicate merely that's how the space was being put to use. There is no way to know from the phrase in isolation.

But some spaces have no specific intended purpose; they are designed to be altered to suit or used as one sees fit:

The alcove served as a sewing room.

An area of 500 square feet in the northeastern corner of the commercial building was subdivided to serve as office space.

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  • I fail to see the difference between being put to use for something other than its intended purpose, and being put to use when something has no intended purpose. Any purpose is a purpose other than its intended purpose if it has no intended purpose. They are the same thing. Mar 11 at 8:00
  • We can't say (meaningfully, as least) that something is being used for other than its intended purpose if the thing has no intended purpose. David used a rock as a projectile when he slew Goliath. But he wasn't using the rock "for other than its intended purpose".
    – TimR
    Mar 11 at 12:16
  • Since it was the only thing within reach, David's rock served as a crude murder weapon when he forcefully hurled it at the giant. Mar 13 at 3:08
  • But my point is not about the verb served but about the phrase *for other than its intended purpose".
    – TimR
    Mar 13 at 9:55
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The space to the left of the entrance now serves as a computer room.
The space to the left of the entrance served as a reading room.

There's really no difference between these two examples. In both cases, because you used the word "serve," the definition automatically implies that each room had some intended purpose other than as a computer or a reading room. We just don't know what that original purpose was.

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  • Thanks for your answer, but the dictionary says "to serve" means "to perform a particular function, which is often not its intended function." That's why I asked if "served as a reading room" is wrong? Feb 28 at 11:52
  • Sorry, I didn't mean for that to sound harsh. I reworded my answer. Feb 28 at 11:54

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