What is the difference between ‘alternate’ and ‘alternative’?

If you play tennis on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays, then you are said to play the game on alternate days. In other words, you don’t play every day, but on every other day. The stress is on the first syllable ‘al’.

Example: Wouldn’t it be nice if we had school/college only on alternate days?

The word can also be used to mean ‘one after another’; when things ‘alternate’ they take place in turns.

Example: It was a movie that made you laugh and cry alternately.

The word ‘alternative’ means one or the other; it is normally used to refer to a situation when a choice has to be made. The stress in this case is on the second syllable.

Example: There’s something wrong with the car. Our alternative is to take a bus.

Careful users of the language sometimes argue that this word should be used only when there is choice between two things. This however, is no longer true. You can have several alternatives.

 Source: ‘Know Your English’ ( The Hindu) – September 11, 2007

 

Advertisements

One thought on “What is the difference between ‘alternate’ and ‘alternative’?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s