Alternate and Alternative


I'm alternate, and this is my friend alternative! Alternate means to take turns or change back and forth. Alternative means another choice. For instance, to keep things fresh we alternate girlfriends. They don't notice because we're easily confused! On Mondays he dates Jenny and I date Cin-- WHAT?! Is that true?! It's Jenny! We'd better come clean. Or as an alternative plan... I know you're in there!

Does their room look like it’s made out of chocolate? Mmmmm….

Edit: The comic refers to “al-ter-NAYt”, but the more confusing definition is for “al-ter-nit”:

You may recognize this mistake in a lot of DVD special features where they have multiple “alternate endings” instead of “alternative endings.” Using alternate to mean alternative has become extremely common, however.

Traditionally you could only have one alternative, but no one really follows that anymore. Alternate can also mean an understudy.

Edit to clarify:

Because the third definition of alternate is very close to the first of alternative, it’s easy to mistakenly use one of these adjectives in place of the other. Think of it this way: Something that is alternate substitutes for the original, while something that is alternative provides a choice without replacing the original. [source]

So you can have an alternate route if the first gets blocked, but if both are available the other is an alternative.

Alternate vs. Alternative Quiz

Fill in the blanks with either alternate or alternative (or a form of one). Post your answers in the comments!

  1. Main St. was flooded so I took an ______ route home.
  2. After George injured Bette Midler, Bette’s part was played by her ______.
  3. Crosswalks are easy to see because of the ______ colors.
  4. I really don’t want to see Shrek on ice, but it’s better than the ______.
Direct link for embedding: