< Reserve, Preserve, and Conserve
By Faith Pirlo
10 February 2023

Hello! This week on Ask a Teacher, we will answer a question about the difference between reserve, preserve, and conserve.


Dear VOA Learning English,

Ask a Teacher: Reserve, Preserve, and Conserve
Ask a Teacher: Reserve, Preserve, and Conserve

I have been learning English for more than twenty years, but my English is still just okay. I have many difficult words to understand. For example: reserve and preserve.

Please let me know the difference between these words.

Many thanks,

Mei from China.


Dear Mei,

Thanks for your note. These words share similar meanings and sounds. That makes it hard to remember which is which. I will add a third word, "conserve" so that we understand all the differences between these terms. Let's start with "reserve."


Reserve can be a verb or a noun. As a verb it means to store for future use.

Please call the restaurant and reserve a table for Saturday.

Emily reserved two books from the library.

As a noun, "reserve" means a supply of goods or materials. It is often used in plural form.

The government says it has only $25 million in usable foreign reserves.

"Reserve" as a noun also means a place where wildlife is protected.

Many national parks and forests in the US are nature reserves.

And lastly, as an uncountable noun, "reserve" means the act of keeping one's feelings hidden.

The dancer's reserve disappeared when the music started.


"Preserve" as a verb means to protect something from change.

The glass case helps preserve the pictures of her ancestors.

Ed used a canning process to preserve tomatoes from the harvest.

And, like reserve, a preserve can also mean a place of protection for wildlife.


To "conserve" means to protect something from harm, destruction, loss, or change.

We conserved on energy use by putting in new windows.

Conserve also means to use little of a natural resource.

To conserve water, you should turn off the faucet when brushing your teeth.

And conserve can also be a noun. It means a sweet food made by preserving fruit with sugar.

Please let us know if these explanations and examples are helpful. We have more in reserve, if needed!

What question do you have about American English? Send us an email at learningenglish@voanews.com

And that's Ask a Teacher.

I'm Faith Pirlo.

Faith Pirlo wrote this lesson for VOA Learning English.


Words in This Story

faucet n. a device that is used to control the flow of water from a pipe

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