In a general sense Couvrir is “to cover”. But the verb has several meanings and you’d need to give more of a context.
In English “cover” will usually be followed by a preposition that will specify the meaning, and you might end up with different verbs in French. Have a look at Reverso.
Indeed recouvrir is to cover again. But when used in a concrete sense, couvrir and recouvrir can be used to mean the same thing. Altough, to my mind, the action of recouvrir is more complete than the action of couvir.
– Elle a recouvert le bébé d’une couverture parce qu’il faisait froid.
Everybody will understand that she put a blanket over the baby so that it didn’t get cold (and not that she tried to smother it). To my mind, using recouvrir here gives the feeling of the blanket going right up to the shoulders and being tucked under the baby.
Recouvrir is quite never used as Couvrir une nouvelle fois (cover again), and that’s precisely because recouvrir and couvrir are two different verbs.
Laure is right in that recouvrir is more used when you wrap up something totally, while couvrir can be used in all cases, and can have many more meanings. For instance, you’d say that le ciel est couvert (the sky is overcast), or sortez couverts (which can ether mean to be careful of the weather, or “Be safe and smart”)
Basically, recouvrir is little used and you can simply say couvrir complètement (totally cover) instead.
Je pensais à faire allusion à ce fils de la part de Wordreference.com: http://forum.wordreference.com/showthread.php?t=290322&p=1752548#post1752548 et http://forum.wordreference.com/showthread.php?t=317488.
http://fr.wiktionary.org/wiki/recouvrir is an explanation in French of recouvrir. Recouvrir has two meanings,
♦ one is to say that “you cover again, you add a layer on something”, like if you cover a book with a plastic film to avoid that you damage the book cover.
♦ On an other hand, recouvrir has a meaning of “complete cover”, like for instance the snow which can cover all the surface when it’s falling.
After that, I think a French speaking will use both without paying attention. It is my case.
I think a slight difference can be observed in the sentence:
– la terre est couverte de neige
– la terre est recouverte par la neige
Here again while speaking, both can be correct lol. Depends on the people.