Possible Duplicate:
“Alternately” or “alternatively”

What is the difference between alternate and alternative? For example, I have two versions of the same software and I want to write one of the following:

Software Name (alternate version)

Software Name (alternative version)


In British English, an alternative version is one that can be considered as a possible choice, while an alternate one changes places at regular intervals with another version. However, I understand that in American English ‘alternate’ is an alternative to ‘alternative’.

  • 4
    Americans actually use the word alternative quite often, but more often as a noun than as an adjective. (As in, "Are there any alternatives?" or "The alternative is even worse.") – user13141 Sep 29 '11 at 9:37

Alternate is closer in meaning to substitute or second option. (As a noun it refers to a person only. "Who's your alternate?")

Alternative can be another possible choice among many. (It can also mean that the two things are mutually exclusive, like when the first thing doesn't work, you look for the alternative).

That said, the terms can sometimes be used interchangeably as the meanings can overlap.

  • I know of no basis for this response. – Harry Audus Mar 1 at 1:34

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