Difference between Alternate and Alternative | Alternate vs Alternative

Have you ever felt confused about the usage of the words ‘alternate’ or ‘alternative’ in a sentence? Most people have faced this problem and, in most cases, have ended up using them interchangeably in the wrong contexts. These two words have almost similar meanings but in no way can be used interchangeably or synonymously. So what’s the difference between these two words? Or how’s the word ‘alternative’ different from the word ‘alternate’?

This article will clear all the confusion that students face with these two words and make sure that they learn to use these correctly. The English Language has many such words whose usage often confuses students. So it’s better to know about the difference between such terms before using them in a sentence. This article will deal with the following key points that’ll help you understand the points of difference between ‘alternate’ and ‘alternative’.

Table Summarising the Difference between Alternate and Alternative

Meaning The word alternate is used to refer to every other person/thing or a substitute. The word alternative means the presence of more than one choice/possibility.
Usage It can be used as an adjective, a noun or a verb. It can be used as an adjective or a noun.
Example The offices were closed on alternate days. Do you have an alternative idea?

This table shows that though ‘alternate’ and ‘alternative’ might have slightly similar meanings, they aren’t synonymous and can’t be used interchangeably. Since students often get confused with these two words, this table will help them understand the contexts in which these are used. Once they understand the difference between these two words, they can apply these correctly in their own sentences.

The Difference between Alternate and Alternative – Meanings

The words ‘alternate’ and ‘alternative’ are often thought to have the same meaning, and students end messing up their usage in sentences. The word alternate, when used as a verb, means that something/someone is happening/doing something on a repetitive basis in a one after the other pattern e.g. ‘Joey alternates the new medicine with his old one’, whereas when the word ‘alternate’ is used as an adjective, it means every other. For example, ‘I clean the house on alternate days.’ If the word ‘alternate’ is used as a noun, it means substitute of something/someone. For example, ‘We had an alternate teacher teaching us Mathematics on Mondays’, but the term ‘alternative’ indicates the presence of more than one choice/possibility. For example, ‘Is there an alternative way out of here?’ Once students get this point of difference, it will be easy for them to use these words correctly in a sentence.

Examples of Alternate and Alternative

The following examples will help students understand the terms ‘alternate’ and ‘alternative’ better.

Alternate – The band practised on alternate days.

Alternative – Mr. Samuel will serve as an alternative boss for a few days.

Once students understand the difference between the words ‘alternate’ and ‘alternative’, they can easily apply them in the proper context in English sentences.

Alternate and Alternative – Conclusion

In conclusion, though ‘alternate’ and ‘alternative’ might sound the same, they cannot be used interchangeably and are not synonymous. When one is using these words, one has to understand the context before applying them. This article talks about the essential points that helps one to know how to use these two terms. BYJU’S offers various articles on many such ‘Differences Between Two Words’ that people often find confusing to deal with.


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