Words

Difference Between Alternate and Alternative

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Main Difference

The main difference between Alternate and Alternative is that the word Alternate is a thing or a person serving in place of another, whereas an Alternative is such a second option that does not replace the first.

Alternate vs. Alternative

An alternate is a thing or a person serving in place of another; on the other hand, an alternative is a second option with no replacement.

The pronunciation of alternate is /ɔːltəneɪt/ or /ɒltəneɪt/; on the flip side, the pronunciation of the word alternative is /ɔːlˈtəːnətɪv/ or /ɒlˈtəːnətɪv/. The total number of letters in alternate is nine; on the other side, the letters that alternative contains are eleven.

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The word ‘alternate’ comes directly from Latin; conversely, the word ‘alternative’ comes through French translating into the meaning ‘different.’

The word alternate is an adjective, a noun, and a verb also. As an adjective, it means “(of days) every other, (of time) every second.” As an adjective, it also means “a thing followed by the other in a regular pattern.” As a noun, it refers to a person acting as a deputy or substitute. As a verb, it means “to occur, perform, or repeatedly do in turn.” It also means “repeatedly change between any two contrasting conditions.” On the other hand, the word alternative is an adjective, as well as a noun. As an adjective, it means “the possibility or availability of another choice.” As a noun, it means “two or many possibilities that are available.”

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Comparison Chart

AlternateAlternative
“A thing or a person serving in place of another is alternate.”“Such a second option which does not replace the first is alternative.”
Number of Letters
NineEleven
Pronunciation
/ɔːltəneɪt/ or /ɒltəneɪt//ɔːlˈtəːnətɪv/ or /ɒlˈtəːnətɪv/.
Parts of Speech
Adjective, noun, verbAdjective, noun
Origin
From LatinFrom Latin via French

What is Alternate?

The word alternate originated from a Latin word ‘alternus’ meaning to take turns. An alternate is a thing or a person serving in place of another. The word alternate is an adjective, a noun, and a verb also. As an adjective, it means “(of days) every other, (of time) every second.” As an adjective, it also means “a thing followed by the other in a regular pattern.” As a noun, it refers to a person acting as a deputy or substitute. As a verb, it means “to occur, perform, or repeatedly do in turn.” It also means “repeatedly change between any two contrasting conditions.”

The pronunciation of alternate is /ɔːltəneɪt/ or /ɒltəneɪt/. The word ‘alternate’ comes directly from Latin apart from its counterpart alternative that comes via the French language. The total number of letters in alternate is six. The letters that alternative contains are eleven. The use of the word alternate is common than its counterpart. It is also used in science fiction. There is the phrase ‘alternate universe’ in science fiction that means a different universe. The word ‘alternate’ is also used in street signs and official documents.

An alternate is known as the replacement for the original thing/person/place. It is a replacement for such a thing, which is no longer an option. In other words, an alternative is the other option for the original one. We can also say that an alternative is a final option. An alternative is left after all other options are gone.

Examples

  • “The bus is broken. We need alternate transport.”
  • The road is closed due to landslide, so we need to take an alternate (as an adjective)
  • “The lights alternate between red and white.” (as a verb)
  • “I felt first amused and then angered by the situation, though my alternate emotions returned to humor when I noted the underlying implications.”
  • “We alternated between watching the baby and taking short naps.”

What is Alternative?

The word alternative originated from the Latin word ‘alternus’ meaning to take turns. It comes through the French word that is translating into the meaning ‘different.’ An alternative is such a second option that does not replace the first.

The pronunciation of the word alternative is /ɔːlˈtəːnətɪv/ or /ɒlˈtəːnətɪv/. The letters that alternative contains are eleven. The word alternative is an adjective, as well as a noun. As an adjective, it means “the possibility or availability of another choice.” As a noun, it means “two or many possibilities that are available.”

The word alternative directs a second or another option. It does not replace the original as its counterpart ‘alternate’ does. An alternative as an adjective is also used in phrases. These phrases are ‘alternative medicine,’ ‘alternative lifestyle.’ In such phrases, it means a thing that is outside the normal or routine practice.

Examples

  • We could try to ram the castle doors, but I have an alternative: we scale the walls instead.”
  • “Our driver is asking for twice as much money than expected. My neighbor’s driver is an alternative.” (as a noun)
  • “The construction has closed this road. Come on, let’s take an alternative route.” (as an adjective)
  • “The car is quite expensive. I think we should take alternative transport.”
  • “Our last alternative is to kill the snake to prevent ourselves from harm.”

Key Differences

  1. An alternate is a thing, place, or person serving in place of another, whereas an alternative is a second or another option that does not replace the first.
  2. The word ‘alternate’ originated from a Latin word ‘alternus’ meaning to take turns; on the other hand, the word ‘alternate’ originated from the same word.
  3. The word ‘alternate’ comes directly from Latin; on the flip side, the word ‘alternative’ comes through French translating into the meaning ‘different.’
  4. The pronunciation of alternate is /ɔːltəneɪt/ or /ɒltəneɪt/; on the contrary, the pronunciation of alternative is /ɔːlˈtəːnətɪv/ or /ɒlˈtəːnətɪv/.
  5. The total number of letters in alternate is nine; on the converse, the letters that alternative contains are eleven.
  6. The word alternate is an adjective, a noun, and a verb; conversely, the word alternative is an adjective as well as a noun.
  7. As an adjective alternate means “(of days) every other, (of time) every second or “a thing followed by the other in a regular pattern.” Contrarily as an adjective, it means “the possibility or availability of another choice.”
  8. As a noun, alternate means “two or many possibilities that are available”; inversely, alternative refers to a person acting as a deputy or substitute as a noun.

Conclusion

Alternate and alternative are the two different words with similar spelling and pronunciation, but both these words are different from each other.

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Aimie Carlson

Aimie Carlson is an English language enthusiast who loves writing and has a master degree in English literature. Follow her on Twitter at @AimieCarlson