Difference between Alternate and Alternative | Alternate vs Alternative

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

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

Table Summarising the Difference between Alternate and Alternative

Alternate

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 between these words, this table will help them understand the context they are using it in. Once they get the difference between these words, they can apply them correctly.

The Difference between Alternate and Alternative – Meaning

The words ‘alternate’ and ‘alternative’ are often thought to be having the same meaning, and students end up messing them up. The word alternate, when used as a verb, means something is happening/doing on a repetitive basis. For example, “Joey takes the new medicines alternate with his old ones.” Whereas when the word ‘alternate’ is used as an adjective, it means every other. For example, “I clean the house on alternate days.” And 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 today.” 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.

Example of Alternate and Alternative

The following example 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.

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 help one to know how to use these two terms. BYJU’S offers various articles on many such ‘differences between two words’ that people often get confused with.

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