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I want to describe a type of pairs , that method1 and method2 have different implementations/settings, but both can be used to solve the same task.

My questions are:

  1. Is there any terms/phrases or succinct ways to describe such pairs of methods?
  2. How can I describe the relations of method1 and method2? Can I say "method1 is method2's counterpart/peer"?

Update: method1 and method2 are not necessarily of the same quality. Each method may have its own pros and cons. For example, method1 might be easier to implement but slower; method2 might be hard to implement but faster.

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    Method1 and 2 are both 'solutions' to the problem. You could call them 'alternatives' - method1 is method2's alternate solution.
    – A R
    Commented Jan 9, 2019 at 12:37
  • 1: ("either would) suffice". Both procedures will arrive with a (2:) 'congruent solution'.
    – Mazura
    Commented Jan 9, 2019 at 21:41
  • Are the two solutions of the same quality or not?
    – Kat
    Commented Jan 10, 2019 at 18:00
  • @Kat They may not. Please see my updated question.
    – Ida
    Commented Jan 11, 2019 at 2:46

10 Answers 10

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The word "alternative" would work here. It's pretty versatile, so it should cover your context. It can be used no matter the level of formality you want and can be used to describe a wide variety of things. Here are some examples:

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  • Nice. Answers both sub-questions with the same word. +1
    – Lawrence
    Commented Jan 9, 2019 at 9:47
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I would say that method1 is method2's equivalent:

A person or thing that is equal to or corresponds with another in value, amount, function, meaning, etc.

https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/equivalent

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    I think this is better than @Laurel's "alternative" because with "equivalent" there is no insinuation of the methods being superior/inferior to one another.
    – KlaymenDK
    Commented Jan 9, 2019 at 18:56
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The term "functionally equivalent" springs to mind.

e.g. The methods are functionally equivalent. or A Functional equivalence exists between method1 and method2.

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  • Given the update to the question this answer is no longer necessarily accurate; if the two solutions produce different results they may not, under some circumstances, be functionally equivalent but merely 'alternative solutions'. If the difference is merely in terms of difficulty to implement they will still be functionally equivalent, but if the run time differs and there is a time constraint on the output they may no longer be
    – BigAl_LBL
    Commented Mar 14, 2019 at 13:08
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It seems to me that what is salient isn't a property of a method (viz that it can solve a task that another method can solve), but rather a property of a task (that there are two methods that solve it). There's the phrase "there's more than one way to skin a cat".

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  • Thanks! In this context, can I say "method1 is method2's counterpart/peer"? (see my updated question)
    – Ida
    Commented Jan 9, 2019 at 7:49
  • Method1 is Method2's alternative.
    – Tushar Raj
    Commented Jan 9, 2019 at 8:16
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There's more than one way to skin a cat.

I think this is more appropriate as it more explicitly relates to processes for achieving something instead of a more abstract comparison.

Definition:

There are many methods one may employ in achieving one's ends.

Used like so:

We can go with method A if you like but there is more than one way to skin a cat.

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    Or "method B is just another way to skin the cat" ... Commented Jan 9, 2019 at 14:56
  • This is usually said after one method fails (and is much favoured by fictional villains). In any case, I'm not sure this phrase is actually applicable to expressing the relationship between two equally good choices and the example sentence you give seems to agree.
    – tmgr
    Commented Jan 9, 2019 at 15:02
  • @tmgr I've updated the usage example. All the definitions of this phrase I can find make no mention of failure explicitly.
    – JonM
    Commented Jan 9, 2019 at 15:05
  • You're right - and I agree - I don't think failure is a necessary prelude to the phrase.
    – tmgr
    Commented Jan 9, 2019 at 15:09
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All roads lead to Rome:

As a proverb, it refers to the fact that many routes can lead to a given result.

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Another metaphorical idiom would be "That's six of one, half a dozen of the other" — i.e. it doesn't matter which, they are equivalent.

This idiom cannot be used to describe one method in relation to the other; I like the modification of the cat skinning metaphor suggested by JonM for that: "Method B is just another way to skin this cat", or similar.

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  • This is far and away the most common phrase I'd hear in this context. You often hear Six of one... with the rest of the phrase implied, much as with Plus ça change...
    – tmgr
    Commented Jan 9, 2019 at 14:23
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    @tmgr You are welcome to upvote if you think it's a good answer ;-). Commented Jan 9, 2019 at 14:33
  • I definitely would... if it were a touch more expansive as an answer.
    – tmgr
    Commented Jan 9, 2019 at 14:35
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    @tmgr I am unsure how I could improve it. I have submitted my 2 cents, provided a link and given my explanation. Any suggestions? Btw, feel free to edit it yourself. Commented Jan 9, 2019 at 14:44
  • Well, OP has two questions. This is a great answer to the first question, not so much the second (but still very much a worthwhile answer). You could explain the phrase, talk about the context in which it is used and its usage (like the bit I mentioned about shortening), maybe even research its origin or first occurrence. I'd be curious! Plus you could include the relevant part of the definition you link to as an inline quote, to save readers clicking through. I won't be editing it, though I'll check back and upvote if you do!
    – tmgr
    Commented Jan 9, 2019 at 14:51
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If both methods for solving the problem are equally good, regarding the choice between them you could say:

It's as broad as it's long.

Macmillan says this expression is

used for saying that you cannot choose between two things or actions because they are equal

Macmillan also words the phrase slightly differently than I know it: It's as broad as it is long. It also lists the phrase as British and spoken.

The spoken is important. This phrase is definitely conversational and not technical: you wouldn't write it in a paper. Hence, this is really only an answer to your first question: [Are] there any terms/phrases or succinct ways to describe such pairs of methods?

I always took it's as broad as it's long to suggest a piece of wood that could be sat on either side: it wouldn't matter which, as it is square. That may well not be its actual origin, but it does express the equilateral geometry of the metaphor of the phrase.

With it's as broad as it's long, the essence is that it would make absolutely no difference if you went about solving the problem one way or the other, but the choice must between two equivalent options. (You could try it's as broad as it's long as it's high for three interchangeable alternatives, but at that point you've gone off piste and you're on your own.)

(Personally, I think the idea of exact equivalence might be more elegantly expressed by: it's as broad as it's wide. However, I couldn't recommend that as an option!)

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Such methods are two sides of the same coin:

Definition To be two things that seem disparate but are actually related.

Usage instance:

"He gave me two methods for solving a problem, which are two sides of the same coin."

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    This would describe two methods which are actually the same even if they don't look like it at first sight. There is no suggestion of that in the OP: The two methods may be completely different ways to solve a given task. (E.g. you could repossess some stolen item or go to court. That's not two sides of the same coin but solves the given task.) Compare that to either offering a reward to your child for doing a chore or, alternatively, threatening with punishment; these could be considered two sides of the same coin (namely bribery). Commented Jan 9, 2019 at 14:50
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I would call the two methods coequal.

Definition Equal with another or each other in rank, ability, extent, etc.

Usage example:

Methods 1 and 2 are coequal in their ability to handle the task.

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