Alternate vs alternative

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Senior Member
Persian (Farsi)
Hello everyone

I know that the words "alternate" and "alternative" can are interchangeably as a noun in American English (,whereas "alternate" as a noun is quite an American word,) but I have read somewhere that they have some nuances as well:

1. Our usual captain is on leave. Simon is the alternate.

Connotation: In this example, "alternate" is a noun. Note that Simon is no longer an option.

2. Our usual captain is demanding twice as much money than expected. Simon is the alternative.

Connotation: In this example, alternative is a noun. Note that Simon is another option for the usual captain, who remains an option.

Source: The difference between alternate and alternative?

If so, then I think:

An alternate is something or someone that serves in place of another.
An alternative is a second option that does not replace the first.

In short, "Alternate" = "Substitute", while "alternative" means a second possible choice.

I was wondering whether you confirm this distinction. I think such a devision is quite pedantic while they are often interchangeable and the only nuance between them is their regional preference ad many dictionaries and references acknowledged too.

Do you confirm?
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  • lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Alternate and alternative have different meanings in British English:

    Alternate items in a list are every other one. So, for example, something happening on alternate days of the week could happen on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
    An alternative item is one that can replace another.

    But apparently the two adjectives are interchangeable in the “alternative” meaning in American English.
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