Share this entry

Share this page

‘Alternate’ or ‘alternative’?

In both British and American English the adjective alternate means ‘every other or every second’, as in:

They meet on alternate Sundays.

Or ‘(of two things) each following and succeeded by the other in a regular pattern’, as in:

Alternate layers of potato and sauce.

Alternative means ‘available as another possibility or choice’ as in:

Some European countries follow an alternative approach.

In American usage, however, alternate can also be used to mean ‘available as another choice’, for example:

an alternate plan called for construction to begin immediately rather than waiting for spring.

This American use of alternate is still regarded as incorrect by many people in Britain.

 

Back to usage.

You may also be interested in

Shall or will?

Who or whom?

Bored by, of, or with?

Share this entry

Share this page


Get more from Oxford Dictionaries

Subscribe to remove adverts and access premium resources

Grammar and usage