The immune system probably evolved to limit the negative effects exerted by pathogens on host homeostasis. This defence strategy relies on the concerted action of innate and adaptive components of the immune system, which sense and target pathogens for containment, destruction or expulsion. Resistance to infection refers to these immune functions, which reduce the pathogen load of an infected host as the means to preserve homeostasis. Immune-driven resistance to infection is coupled to an additional, and arguably as important, defence strategy that limits the extent of dysfunction imposed on host parenchymal tissues during infection, without exerting a direct negative effect on pathogens. This defence strategy, known as disease tolerance, relies on tissue damage control mechanisms that prevent the deleterious effects of pathogens and that uncouples immune-driven resistance mechanisms from immunopathology and disease. In this Review, we provide a unifying view of resistance and disease tolerance in the framework of immunity to infection.