Alternate / Alternative

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Toum

New Member
France
Hi everybody,

While working on my music collection I found some [Alt. Take] spelled [Alternate Take] while I thought it was Alternative.

After looking it up, it seems that alternate is an american idiom. Are they interchangeable or is it more complicated than that ?

Thanks for your answers :)
 
  • heypresto

    Senior Member
    English - England
    In BE they have two distinct meanings and are not interchangeable. I'm not so sure about AE - I frequently hear and read 'alternate' used when we would say 'alternative'.
     

    Toum

    New Member
    France
    Apparently, it can be used as an adjective in AE :)
    But I get the BE differences since they're used the same way in french and I'll stick with "Alternative" for my music :D
     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    Alternatively, one can read the previous threads which come up when you type alternate alternative in the search box (it.'s hard to add links from an iPad)
     

    Toum

    New Member
    France
    Alternatively, one can read the previous threads which come up when you type alternate alternative in the search box (it.'s hard to add links from an iPad)
    Oh, sorry about that, I looked for alternative when I was searching for alternate and vice versa but I didn't thought about searching for both of them :(
     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    Oh, sorry about that, I looked for alternative when I was searching for alternate and vice versa but I didn't thought about searching for both of them :(
    No problem - the threads don't quickly clear things up :(

    Here is the entry in WR dictionary for the adjective alternate, which seems quite clear! The verb seems to be used similarly in both AmE and BrE

    alternate
    ▶adjective /ɔːlˈtəːnət, ɒl-/ 
    • 1 every other. ■ (of two things) each following and succeeded by the other in a regular pattern.
      ■ Botany (of leaves or shoots) placed alternately on the two sides of the stem.

    So, in AmE alternate is an alternate word for alternative, while in BrE alternate is not an alternative to alternative :)
     

    jexrry_nam

    Senior Member
    Cantonese
    Hello there :),,

    I know that there is a tremendous distinction between them.

    However, I'm still confused with them.

    Occasionally, I see something like alternate options, alternate timetable, etc..

    Shouldn't it be "alternative"? Alternative means "offering or expressing a choice."

    It's completely different from alternate.

    Could anyone help me?

    Thanks
     

    heypresto

    Senior Member
    English - England
    In BE, it is as you describe. The two words have distinctly different meanings.

    But in AE, I believe the tendency is to use 'alternate' for both meanings.

    Let's wait for an AE speaker to offer a more authoritative answer.
     

    natkretep

    Moderato con anima (English Only)
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    Moderator note: I have merged jexrry's thread (post 10 onwards) with another one on the same question.

    Nat
     

    redgiant

    Senior Member
    Cantonese, Hong Kong
    With alternate being the same as alternative in AE, how do Americans ensure that when they use "alternate" to mean "every other", it wouldn't be mistaken for "alternative"?
     

    Sun14

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    Today I came across a sentence, I was wondering what does alternate mean:

    "This is different from your earlier examples where a character in a real life is the inspiration of a character in a book, unless you mean that in a alternate universe the real life character was the father of the book character."
     

    Cagey

    post mod (English Only / Latin)
    English - US
    An alternate universe is a second universe that is unlike ours in some significant way.

    (At least, an alternate universe is usually an alternate in respect to ours. It might also be an alternate in respect to another universe.)

    You could also call it an 'alternative universe'. I believe that speakers of British English would do that.
     

    Sun14

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    An alternate universe is a second universe that is unlike ours in some significant way.

    (At least, an alternate universe is usually an alternate in respect to ours. It might also be an alternate in respect to another universe.)

    You could also call it an 'alternative universe'. I believe that speakers of British English would do that.
    I don't know which entry does alternate or alternative fall into, since it seems to be used another way.
     

    Cagey

    post mod (English Only / Latin)
    English - US
    In American English, we use both alternate and alternative with this meaning, which is given only under alternative in our dictionary:
    allowing for a choice between two or more things: an alternative plan.

    If I understand the previous discussion correctly, British English allows only alternative to be used in this way.
     

    Sun14

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    In American English, we use both alternate and alternative with this meaning, which is given only under alternative in our dictionary:
    allowing for a choice between two or more things: an alternative plan.

    If I understand the previous discussion correctly, British English allows only alternative to be used in this way.
    I see, but what I came across is alternate universe which is imaginary, compared with alternative plan. It is hard to imagine I have some choice and one of it is a imaginary universe.
     

    A-friend

    Senior Member
    Persian (Farsi)
    In American English, we use both alternate and alternative with this meaning, which is given only under alternative in our dictionary:
    allowing for a choice between two or more things: an alternative plan.

    If I understand the previous discussion correctly, British English allows only alternative to be used in this way.
    Hello Cagey
    Actually I raised this issue through a separated thread despite I read all the similar questions in the forum. But I thought a single thread should be allocated to the AE/BE nuance between these two! However, I was wondering if both of the words "alternate" and "alternative" in both roles "adjective" and "noun" can always be used interchangeably in this sense in American English. (I know the alternative meaning of the word "alternate" which is "every other" and I'm about their meaning as "substitute".)
    Please kindly let me know about it.
    Thank you. ;)
     

    Cagey

    post mod (English Only / Latin)
    English - US
    I am not certain I understand your question.

    In general I agree with the previous conversation. In particular, see JulianStuart's post #9.
     

    A-friend

    Senior Member
    Persian (Farsi)
    I am not certain I understand your question.

    In general I agree with the previous conversation. In particular, see JulianStuart's post #9.
    Sorry for my poor explanations. I should be more clear.
    Recently, I made a separate thread and asked about this AE/BE nuance as well as the semantic prosody of these two!
    Let me clarify my meaning.
    If in AE (as Julian mentioned in post #9) these two words mean the same, then I have to be able to use them interchangeably in the following sentences:

    1. David was too sick to attend, so Janey served as his (alternative / alternate.) ][Noun]
    2. He was dismissed and replaced with an (alternative / alternate.) [Noun]
    3. Tea is the only (alternative / alternate) to coffee in this cafe'. [Noun]
    4. If a road undergoing maintenance is closed to traffic or if an accident happens and you get stuck in traffic, you have to take an (alternative / alternate) route. [Adjective]
    Do you confirm? :)
     

    Cagey

    post mod (English Only / Latin)
    English - US
    I would use these:

    1. David was too sick to attend, so Janey served as his alternate.
    2. He was dismissed and replaced with an alternate.
    3. Tea is the only alternative to coffee in this cafe'.
    4. If a road undergoing maintenance is closed to traffic or if an accident happens and you get stuck in traffic, you have to take an alternate route.

    I believe I use 'alternative' when I am talking about choices. I use 'alternate' when I am talking about a thing or person that replaces another.
     

    A-friend

    Senior Member
    Persian (Farsi)
    I would use these:

    1. David was too sick to attend, so Janey served as his alternate.
    2. He was dismissed and replaced with an alternate.
    3. Tea is the only alternative to coffee in this cafe'.
    4. If a road undergoing maintenance is closed to traffic or if an accident happens and you get stuck in traffic, you have to take an alternate route.

    I believe I use 'alternative' when I am talking about choices. I use 'alternate' when I am talking about a thing or person that replaces another.
    But, what I get logically from your preferences is as follow;
    If we chose another choice excepting the choice at hand:
    1. if the old choice is still available,the we should use "alternative" (both in adjectival or noun forms.)
    2. if the old choice is NOT available anymore,the we should use "alternative" (both in adjectival or noun forms.)
    Though in everyday conversation, I am quite sure most of ordinary people do not care about such a distinction, but regarding the logic behind their usage, I think my takeaway is correct. Just I need your approval.
     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    The use of "alternate" as a noun meaning subsititute is listed in the WRF BE dictioanry (Collins) as US and Candian, and does not have that meaning (or is not used that way) in BE. It matches Cagey's usage as referring to a person.
    alternate n /ˈɔːltənɪt; ɔːlˈtɜːnɪt/ US CANADIAN a person who substitutes for another in his absence; stand-in
    Therefore in your sentences 1 and 2, BE would not use alternate. In 3, alternative is used the same way in AE and BE
    alternative /ɔːlˈtɜːnətɪv/n
    1. a possibility of choice, esp between two things, courses of action, etc
    2. either of such choices: we took the alternative of walking
    in 4, the adjectival use of alternative is the same in AE and BE, although BE is far more likely to use "different" in that sentence:)
     

    A-friend

    Senior Member
    Persian (Farsi)
    The use of "alternate" as a noun meaning subsititute is listed in the WRF BE dictioanry (Collins) as US and Candian, and does not have that meaning (or is not used that way) in BE. It matches Cagey's usage as referring to a person.

    Therefore in your sentences 1 and 2, BE would not use alternate. In 3, alternative is used the same way in AE and BE
    in 4, the adjectival use of alternative is the same in AE and BE, although BE is far more likely to use "different" in that sentence:)
    Hi Julian ;)
    Thank you very much for tour comment, just could you please let me know about your opinion regarding my question in the post #23?

    I mean:

    If we chose another choice excepting the choice at hand:
    1. if the old choice is still available,the we should use "alternative" (both in adjectival or noun forms.)
    2. if the old choice is NOT available anymore,the we should use "alternative" (both in adjectival or noun forms.)

    Do you agree with it or you believe that they can always be used interchangeably (excepting the main meaning of "alternate": "every other",) in American English? :)
     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    I don't consider the avaialabiity of a replacement as having an effect o the choice of words. I hope that (?) answers your question.

    Tea is the ony alternative to coffee in the cafe, but there is none available right now: today's shipment has not arrived.
     

    A-friend

    Senior Member
    Persian (Farsi)
    I don't consider the avaialabiity of a replacement as having an effect o the choice of words. I hope that (?) answers your question.

    Tea is the ony alternative to coffee in the cafe, but there is none available right now: today's shipment has not arrived.
    Uha, then why many other mative speakers make their own preferences on these words exactly the same as what Cagey did on post #22?
    Is it a matter of prosody or just style?
     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    Uha, then why many other mative speakers make their own preferences on these words exactly the same as what Cagey did on post #22?
    Is it a matter of prosody or just style?
    Cagey speaks AE, and many "native" AE speakers would make the same choices. . I speak BE (mostly, although some AE has crept into my speech over the decades:)) This is simply a difference in usage between those two forms (styles/versions) of English.
     

    kentix

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    I agree with Cagey's choices and I believe they are the only idiomatic choices in those sentences in American English. So, no, those two words are not freely interchangeable.

    I would differentiate "alternate" and "different" in the last sentence.

    In that situation an alternate route quite frequently has the nuance of an officially sanctioned alternative to the route that's closed. There might even be signs.

    A different route is just a different personal choice of the driver about which roads to take. "I heard Johnson Highway is closed. We should probably go a different way (than our usual route)."

    When I looked up alternate route I was reminded of another way it's used. Some roads that aren't closed still have permanent alternate routes. Basically you take slightly different paths that meet up again a bit farther along. Depending on the time of day and traffic, sometimes the alternate route is more convenient than the standard route.

    33609


    1. if the old choice is still available,the we should use "alternative" (both in adjectival or noun forms.)
    2. if the old choice is NOT available anymore,the we should use "alternative" (both in adjectival or noun forms.)
    There is no practical difference in these two sentences. Are you sure you didn't mistype one of them?
     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    A "codified" term specific to the US, but a good example of using the AE adjective (where BE would use alternative) :
    An alternate route provides additional capacity to service primary route traffic. Alternate routes begin from one point on the primary route and terminate at another point on the primary route. The teminal point of an alternate route must be downstream of the congested area.
    From an official US government publication.
     

    A-friend

    Senior Member
    Persian (Farsi)
    I agree with Cagey's choices and I believe they are the only idiomatic choices in those sentences in American English. So, no, those two words are not freely interchangeable.

    I would differentiate "alternate" and "different" in the last sentence.

    In that situation an alternate route quite frequently has the nuance of an officially sanctioned alternative to the route that's closed. There might even be signs.

    A different route is just a different personal choice of the driver about which roads to take. "I heard Johnson Highway is closed. We should probably go a different way (than our usual route)."

    When I looked up alternate route I was reminded of another way it's used. Some roads that aren't closed still have permanent alternate routes. Basically you take slightly different paths that meet up again a bit farther along. Depending on the time of day and traffic, sometimes the alternate route is more convenient than the standard route.

    View attachment 33609


    There is no practical difference in these two sentences. Are you sure you didn't mistype one of them?
    Hi Kentix
    Thank you very much for the good information. Regarding your question, I have to say "no"! That was what I realized from among many threads, sources and topics I read in many webpages.
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I'd just like to make the point that the adjective and verb, alternate, are pronounced differently in BE, as our dictionary indicates.

    The accent falls on the first and third syllables in the verb (dum-di-dum), and on the second syllable in the adjective (di-dum-di).
     
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