0

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. The car is broken. We need alternate transport.

Regarding this sentence, there has been said that:

Here, the car is no longer an option. The alternate replaces it.

    1. The car is quite expensive. I suggest alternative transport.

Also, about this sentence, there has been mentioned that:

Here, the car is still an option. The alternative is just another option.

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?

2

In your examples, you are using alternate/alternative as adjectives modifying transport. These are interchangeable in either case.

If you were to drop off "transport" you'd be using them as nouns, which is what you're asking in your question.

When you're listing or wanting a single option, they can be used interchangeably.

The car is broken. We need an alternate.

The car is broken. We need an alternative.

The car is quite expensive. I suggest an alternate.

The car is quite expensive. I suggest an alternative.

The only case I believe where "alternate" and "alternative" cannot be used interchangeably is when multiple choices are presented.

This car is too expensive. I suggested an alternative of a boat or plane.

I do not believe it would be correct to say:

This car is too expensive. I suggested an alternate of a boat or plane.

This may well be my regional preference, though I couldn't quickly find any written examples where options are listed prefaced by "alternate".

| improve this answer | |
  • As a UK English speaker, I have never come across alternate as a noun and had to search through several dictionaries to find it listed in the Cambridge dictionary, where it's indicated as US usage. Am I unusual in this respect? – Ronald Sole Sep 18 '19 at 15:20
  • Merriam-Webster lists it as a noun: merriam-webster.com/dictionary/alternate . As a US English speaker, we use it as a noun frequently. – JRodge01 Sep 18 '19 at 15:25
  • Thank you @JRodge01, but still I don't understand: (The only case I believe where "alternate" and "alternative" cannot be used interchangeably is when multiple choices are presented. - This car is too expensive. I suggested an alternative of a boat or plane,) where you say they can be used interchangeably in: (This car is too expensive. I suggested an alternative of a boat or plane.) – A-friend Sep 19 '19 at 10:11
  • Also, I have found out that 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. – A-friend Sep 19 '19 at 10:13
  • In your example, you list "alternative" for both cases. Is this intentional? Either way, in common speech, no one is going to care about the distinction or be confused as to what you're trying to convey. – JRodge01 Sep 19 '19 at 13:02

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.