Most scientists believe that when we sleep, we allow time for essential maintenance work to be done. Any ________ there is can be put right more quickly if energy isn't being used up on other things.

In this FCE multiple-choice cloze I need to pick between harm and damage.

From the research you can find in the hyperlinked sources, both words can be used metaphorically. However, why does only the latter work? (At least that's what it says in the key)

2 Answers 2


Damage is what is left behind after harm has been done.

Wendy: Sorry did I harm you?

June: You only damaged my trousers

  • The OP requires a noun. This would be more useful if the example demonstrably applied to nouns rather than verbs.
    – Greybeard
    Jul 11, 2021 at 17:55

This is not a case of a specific rule so much as conventional usage. We don't usually use "harm" when we're talking about something being fixed or corrected - a google search for "repair harm" turns up results almost exclusively from restorative justice, suggesting that it is a specialized usage not found in ordinary speech. "Damage" is the more intuitive choice in this case because it is something that is being fixed.

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