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Approved answer (verified by Mister Micawber)
rvw:Webster's Dictionary of English Usage has these (and more) comments:
alternate, alternative, adjectives The adjectives alternate and alternative, say many commentators, are often confused; they advise keeping them separate. The senses recommended are "occuring or succeeding by turns" for alternate, and "offering or expressing a choice" for alternative.
It appears that alternative as an adjective is disappearing.
Anonymous:In the world of jazz the use of unfinished or unused outtakes when reissuing LPs as CDs has resulted in the use of the term "alternate takes". Many British writers avoid this usage preferring the more correct "alternative". It appears the battle is lost on the US side of the Atlantic and as far back as the early 1950s, in the movie "Twelve Angry Men", the judge says, "The alternate jurors may leave the courtroom...". If the word "alternate" is replacing "alternative" what would happen when one wishes to say, "I had no alternative but to leave"? Surely "I had no alternate but to leave" would be ludicrous.
Anonymous:Alternate is a verb - if something alternates between black and white it goes black, then white, then black, then white et cetera.
Alternative is a different word, a noun, with a completely different meaning.
The confusion of the two words in American English is an unfortunate but very common error which erodes the useful difference between the two words.
There are no rules on using alternate instead of alternative, other than it's poor English and should be avoided.
Anonymous:Interesting article on this: http://www.beedictionary.com/common-errors/alternate_vs_alternative
"Alternative" is the original, and in my opinion, correct word to use. "Alternate" has been introduced as an alternative (!) to "alternative" but looking at its original meaning, is not synonymous with the word.
Anonymous If the word "alternate" is replacing "alternative" what would happen when one wishes to say, "I had no alternative but to leave"? Surely "I had no alternate but to leave" would be ludicrous.The question here is whether to use alternate or alternative as an adjective. In your example, alternative is a noun. The Webster quote above says that alternative is increasingly being used as a noun in American English, so I don't think your fear is founded.
Anonymous:I completely agree with this analysis, but it still leaves the problem that if we allow the two adjectives to become synonymous then we lose the useful difference in meaning between the two words.
Anonymous:I know better. So, I will continue to use the correct word, and not an alternative word! Keep it straight guys!
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