Are the two words synonyms? Is it grammatically correct to say "you have two choices, this or that?" Isn't that one choice? Should it not be "you have one choice, this or that" or "you have two options, this or that?". For two choices, don't you need a minimum of three options?

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    The dictionary covers all this: a choice is not merely the act of selecting alone, but indeed can also be used to mean each one of the several available possibilities to choose from. Also, you seem to be confusing choice with the strictly dilemmatical (and hopelessly obsolete) sense of alternative.
    – tchrist
    Commented Apr 4, 2013 at 20:45
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    @tchrist hopelessly obsolete?
    – The Frog
    Commented Apr 5, 2013 at 0:22
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    @TheFrog Because only people who have studied Latin ever think of alter as being inherently dual, and because any expectation that people shall have studied Latin is itself a hopelessly obsolete notion, the whole thing becomes hopelessly obsolete. If you look at real-world uses of alternative, the overwhelming majority are multiple; hence how commonly several alternatives occurs. Only the verb alternate today retains any twofold sense to it in most people's minds.
    – tchrist
    Commented Apr 5, 2013 at 0:32
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    @tchrist This is genuinely interesting, T. I studied Latin, but missed this class, I guess. Ergo, I think of alternative as essentially singular, basically a linearly oriented choice. "This is the alternative to that." And there can be many such choices, hence many individual alternatives. (And I think of the old joke: "How does it feel to get old?" "I much prefer it to the alternative.") So, can you expand on the duality? I'm interested. Commented Apr 5, 2013 at 5:12
  • @JohnM.Landsberg The dual thing is that alter is the other (something), so there can be only two possibilities, this one and the other/alter one. But you’ll hear people talk about having three alternatives to choose from, without being conscious that this bothers some people, or why.
    – tchrist
    Commented Apr 5, 2013 at 12:48

1 Answer 1


Choice: See 3a vs 3b & 4.

3a: a range of things that can be chosen

3b: one of the things that you can choose

4: the person or thing that someone chooses

Option See 2.

2: something that can be chosen : a choice or possibility

Note the the choice in case 4 is no longer strictly an option. (It has been chosen and no longer can be chosen.)

Host: We are giving you a choice now. You have three options - the envelope, the key, or what's behind the door.

Contestant: (Thinking - So many choices!) Okay I have made a decision. I have made my choice!

As nouns, "choices" = "options", but "choice" = "option" and "choice" = "options" are equally acceptable alternatives.

Host: But wait. Now that you made up your mind, I want you to consider this alternative...

Alternative: something that can be chosen instead of something else : a choice or option

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