Look at the following two statements:

  1. Why Microsoft Had no choice But To Purchase Nokia's Handset
  2. US now has no option but to attack Syria

I think that both imply compulsion. But is there any fundamental difference between the two?

  • For whatever reason, "choice" sounds more voluntary to me than "option" and its lack ("no choice") sounds less dire. Commented Sep 26, 2013 at 19:41

3 Answers 3


They mean exactly the same thing, since 'option' and 'choice' are synonyms.


Heh - I've been told to expand on this answer, so I'll try, although really the answer it is just as straightforward as described above.

'Choice' and 'option' are nouns that are so closely aligned in meaning that http://www.thefreedictionary.com/ pretty much uses each to define the other. Moreover, in English speech, it is just about as common to say 'no choice but to' as 'no option but to', in both cases meaning 'Person X was compelled to do Y'.

Often there are subtle differences in the meaning of words, but in this case I can't discern any.

  • The meanings are similar, but I think they have different implications with regard to the possibility of alternative actions. "No choice but to X" implies that it would be impossible to avoid the consequences of doing X, no matter what other consequences one would be willing to accept, while "no option but to X" would imply that it would be impossible to achieve some stated or implied objective (e.g. avoidance of worse consequences) without doing X. Someone may have "no choice but to purchase something" if one would be to compelled to pay for it whether one accepts the item or not.
    – supercat
    Commented Aug 4, 2014 at 18:43
  • By contrast, a company may have "no option but to publish a formal apology" if the consequences of failing to do so would be worse than the consequences of doing so. Refusing to apologize might be suicidal, but possible. By contrast, in some situations there may be no possible means of avoiding having to pay the price of an item one has agreed to purchase.
    – supercat
    Commented Aug 4, 2014 at 18:52
  • @supercat. I don't think I agree. I see the point you are making, but in both cases it seems to me 'no choice' or 'no option' are completely interchangeable. In both cases the sense is 'there is no alternative but to do action X ...'. Alternative, choice, option, are all extremely close in meaning.
    – fred2
    Commented Oct 23, 2014 at 13:40
  • If there is no choice but to do something, there is also no option but to do it; I would suggest, however, that the reverse, however, is not quite true. If someone is facing an angry mob armed with pitchforks, the only possible courses of actions may be to apologize or become a (dead) martyr. Martyrdom may not be an option, but it would be a potential choice.
    – supercat
    Commented Oct 23, 2014 at 15:22

There is a difference between choice and option but not in this example. "Choice" is a situation where there are several courses of action available and one must be taken. "Option" is a particular course of action in such a situation. This is why the sentence "choice is no option" makes sense but not vice versa "option is no choice". In the negative, ("no choice", "no option"), no such situation exists in the first place therefore no course of action is available that could be taken, i.e. they both mean the same.


In an objective exam, a question is asked and some options (A, B, C and D ) will be given for the student to make his or her choice. To the student, choice can only be made if options are provided, and this means that there won't be a choice without options. When one option is available, the student's choice is restricted to that option or else, leave the space blank and when there is no option, the student is expected to write what he knows about the question. So, option comes before choice and choice is made out of the options

  • A, B, C, and D are also very frequently referred to as the "choices", so this nifty little explanation is almost completely wrong. Commented Jan 13, 2018 at 16:26

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