alternately - alternatively


From a fiction book:
"I felt like plopping down on the floor and having a tantrum until I got my way. I was unfortunately too old (or alternately, not nearly old enough) to get away with that sort of behavior."

Is "alternately" the right word? Shouldn't it be "alternatively"?
  • Matching Mole

    Senior Member
    England, English
    I agree. Alternately means continuously by turns; one thing, then the other, then the first thing again, etc. Alternatively means by way of another option, means, etc., which is what is meant here.

    Grumpy Old Man

    Senior Member
    May I suggest that the dictionaries are wrong?
    Yes, of course. It's a matter of opinion. The fact is that alternately is used in this sense and lexicographers recognize it. In their opinion they are of course right. Personally, I couldn't care less whether this usage is considered correct or not.:)

    Three quotations from dictionaries:

    11. constituting an alternative: The alternate route is more scenic.
    - Webster's Unabridged Dictionary

    3 US (UK alternative) An alternate plan or method is one that you can use if you do not want to use another one.
    - Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary

    Being a second choice; alternative: alternate director
    - Collins Concise Dictionary


    Senior Member
    English UK
    Ah, another BrE/AmE difference:)

    The OED includes alternate = alternative, describing this as "US".
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