I would like to say:

He learned that a well-written apology could make things return to what they were.

But I feel that the sentence is awkward. I'm not a big fan of the phrase, make things return to what they were. Is there a better way to express this idea? Some turn of phrase, perhaps?

closed as primarily opinion-based by curiousdannii, tchrist Nov 5 '17 at 19:17

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • Regress, restore, rollback, etc. – vickyace Apr 16 '17 at 7:52
  • @vickyace Ah, but I'm looking for an eloquent phrase that will fit the sentence. "He learned that a well-written apology could restore things" doesn't pack enough punch. Also, "regress" has the connotation of things getting worse. – ktm5124 Apr 16 '17 at 7:55
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    An interesting Latin phrase to express this idea is status quo ante. But unfortunately it's a bit too wordy. Perhaps this would work. He learned that a well-written apology could restore the status quo. – ktm5124 Apr 16 '17 at 7:58
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    There are also other approaches here such as ... can mend a relationship... – Jim Apr 16 '17 at 16:20
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    Remedy, perhaps? – Phil Sweet Apr 16 '17 at 23:20

Turn the tide -- Vocabulary

  1. (verb) cause a complete reversal of the circumstances

When you turn the tide, you change things — usually dramatically, and for the better.

"He learned that a well-written apology could turn the tide"
"Bush is yet to face a crisis when his own apology would turn the tide of public opinion."Google Books


Whichever word or phrase you go with, I’d qualify the lesson a bit more by changing “could” to “can often help.”

Either with or without the above suggestion, you could expand on Vickyace’s “rollback” with:

He learned that a well-written apology could/can often help roll back the clock.

“To revisit, recount, return to or recreate a time or era from the past.” (from Farlex Dictionary of Idioms)

(see/consider also “put/turn/set the clock back” = “to return to a time in the past” [from Macmillan Dictionary])

  • 3
    Never rolled a clock, just turned it back (which is imo the best answer). But I imagine there are regional variations. – David Apr 16 '17 at 14:31

Put things back on an even keel doesn't quite mean "a return to the way things were" but it does seem to suit the context quite well:

We all know what happened last month but I believe we're back on an even keel.

...getting her life back on to an even keel after their breakup had been difficult.

Given that an apology is involved, wipe the slate clean might also work here.

To be fair he had one good idea which became law - wiping the slate clean for people with very minor non-violent offences who had not re-offended for at least ten years.

Mend fences might be best; this has the specific connotation of restoring relationships to how they were, and even has the implication of making a conciliatory gesture. According to Merriam-Webster, it means "to improve or repair a relationship that has been damaged by an argument or disagreement."

After the election, he spent a lot of time mending political fences.

Depending on the required nuance, you could also use calm the waters, or a verb like mollify, pacify or placate.

Other have suggested restore, and an addition of a few words here could help you find the right turn of phrase: restore order; restore a functional civility; or perhaps restore decorum ...these are just some of the possibilities.

  • +1 Ooh, 'mend fences'. That's a good one. As you say, it is a relationship-specific idiom. – EleventhDoctor Apr 27 '17 at 14:52

I think this one is a good possibility ... depending on what you want to emphasize.

from the Cambridge dictionary

step back (in time) ​ to go back into the past:

Visiting her house was like stepping back in time/stepping back 50 years

Or, perhaps the similar "turn back time".

Here are lyrics to a song by Twenty One Pilots:

Wish we could turn back time
To the good old days
When our momma sang us to sleep but
Now we're stressed out
Wish we could turn back time
To the good old days
When our momma sang us to sleep but
Now we're stressed out
We're stressed out

  • For an exposition of 'turning back time' I recommend Cher's song on the subject! ;-) – EleventhDoctor Apr 27 '17 at 14:43

Cover/Hide a Multitude of Sins

He learned that a well-written apology could cover a multitude of sins.

This idiom is in popular use in British and American English, with the meaning:


to prevent people from seeing or discovering something bad

Some recent examples from the news:

Falkirk Herald: 'Hard-work hides a multitude of sins, and our guys gave us that.'

The Irish News: 'Inebriation and a sauce whose only adjective is ‘house’ will hide a multitude of sins.'

The origin for English speakers is a biblical reference:

'Above all, maintain constant love for one another, for love covers a multitude of sins.'

-- 1 Peter 4:8, NRSV


"Restore" might work, as in the apolagy could restore his/their/the relationship (depending on the context of this passage).

Definition of 'restore':Bring back or re-establish (a previous right, practice, or situation)

  • Return (someone or something) to a former condition, place, or position.
  • Repair or renovate (a building, work of art, etc.) so as to return it to its original condition.
  • Give (something stolen, taken away, or lost) back to the original owner or recipient.


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