The natural history of recovery of motor function after stroke is described using data from a 1-year community-based study in Auckland, New Zealand. Of 680 patients, 88% presented with a hemiparesis; the proportion of survivors with a persisting deficit declined to 71% at 1 month and 62% at 6 months after the onset of the stroke. At onset, there were equal proportions of people with mild, moderate, and severe motor deficits, but the majority (76%) of those who survived 6 months had either no or only a mild deficit. Recovery of motor function was associated with the stroke severity but not with age or sex; patients with a mild motor deficit at onset were 10 times more likely to recover their motor function than those with a severe stroke. Our results confirm the reasonably optimistic outcome for survivors of stroke and further suggest that recovery of motor function is confined to patients whose motor deficit at onset is either mild or moderate.