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Restore and Recover

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Hello! This week on Ask a Teacher we answer a question from a reader in China.


Dear Teacher,

I read an article on your website, Visitors Slowly Return to a Famous Thai Coastal Area. I am a little confused about the words "restore" and "recover" in the story. Is there any difference between them? Thank you!

Your loyal reader,

Aiping, China.


Dear Aiping,

Thank you for this question. The story tells of a famous place, Maya Bay, in Thailand. A movie was filmed there. Too many people visited this island and it became polluted. Fish and wildlife disappeared from its waters. In 2018 the government closed it. Now, it is open again and a smaller number of people can visit it.

The story ends with this quote from an Italian visitor: “I think it is fine that it has been closed all this time to protect the nature and allow it to restore and recover.”


Let us look first at the word “restore.” It means to give back something that was lost or taken. In the case of Maya Bay, the beautiful sea animals called corals died from all the traffic in the water. So workers had to plant new coral on the sea floor. In other words:

Officials restored the reefs by planting new corals from other places.

In this August 2018 photo provided by the Allen Coral Atlas, a shark swims on a reef in Ailinginae Atoll in the Marshall Islands. (Greg Asner/Allen Coral Atlas via AP)
In this August 2018 photo provided by the Allen Coral Atlas, a shark swims on a reef in Ailinginae Atoll in the Marshall Islands. (Greg Asner/Allen Coral Atlas via AP)

Maya Bay’s beach experienced another loss – the native plants that grew there. The movie makers took away some of the plants. They planted trees that are not native to the island. Thai officials tried to correct that environmental damage by bringing back the usual plants that grew in the sand. You can say,

Marine biologists restored the native plants on the beach.


Now, let us look at the word “recover.” It means to get back or regain something that was lost. The ecological system, or environment, of Maya Bay was lost to pollution. We read that government scientists brought corals and plants back, but they need time to grow.

It will take a few years for the beach to recover as the new plants grow.

Think of how we use “recover” to mean, “become healthy again after an illness.” You can say,

She recovered quickly from a mild infection.

The doctor’s care restored her to good health.

To review, when we return something that was lost, we “restore” it. When something goes back to its original state, or the way it was, it “recovers.”

If all goes well, the island at Maya Bay will recover its beauty as the plants, wildlife and waters return to good health.

What question do you have about American English? Send us an email at

And that’s Ask a Teacher.

I’m Jill Robbins.

Dr. Jill Robbins wrote this lesson for VOA Learning English.


Words in This Story

confusedadj. unable to understand or think clearly

restorev. to give back (someone or something that was lost or taken) to return (someone or something) — often + to

coraln. a creature that lives on the bottom of the sea; its body forms a hard rock-like material

reefn. a long line of coral that lies in warm, shallow water

beach n. an area covered with sand or small rocks that is next to an ocean or lake

ecological system n. everything that exists in a particular environment (ecosystem)

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