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Alternately vs. Alternatively



Dear native speakers and writers, please help. when do YOU use and which one? or you just simply don't think of it at all? use whichever sounds good to you at the moment?

Strangely enough, I found two copies of the same article in NYTime. And one copy use "alternately", and the other uses "alternatively"?

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/18/nyregion/18bathrooms.html?_r=1&em&ex=1216526400&en=ae0ba6039a0a3d68&ei=5087%0A&oref=slogin
Or alternately, he could ask the station master to buzz him into the “family” bathroom. He opted to go downstairs Or alternatively, he could ask the station master to buzz him into the “family” bathroom. He opted to go downstairs.

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I am one of an apparently dwindling group who believe that "alternately" means "taking turns", and is therefore quite distinct from "alternatively", which means "as an alternative".
21 on "Or alternately, he could"
238 on "Or alternatively, he could" [seems more popular
http://books.google.com/books?q=%22Or+alternatively%2C+he+could%22&btnG=Search+Books
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Mr WordyI am one of an apparently dwindling group who believe that "alternately" means "taking turns", and is therefore quite distinct from "alternatively", which means "as an alternative".

Hi Mr Wordy
When I read your post I thought, "He is right." Then I checked Webster's and according to it "alternate" can mean the same as "alternative":
11. constituting an alternative: The alternate route is more scenic.

CB
Cool BreezeThen I checked Webster's and according to it "alternate" can mean the same as "alternative":

Different people have different opinions on this, so you pays your money and you takes your choice I guess. Here are a few (randomly Googled) definitions that agree with my position: San Diego State University Style Guide

"Alternately" means one after the other, in time or space. "Alternatively" means one instead of the other.

"250 Often Confused Words" (http://www.alphadictionary.com/articles/confused_words.html ):

Alternately means "taking turns": We paddled alternately so neither of us would get too tired.
Alternatively means "as an option": Instead of going by train, we could have gone alternatively by car.

"Easily Confused or Misused Words" (http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0200807.html):

Alternately is an adverb that means in turn; one after the other: “We alternately spun the wheel in the game.” Alternatively is an adverb that means on the other hand; one or the other: “You can choose a large bookcase or, alternatively, you can buy two small ones.”

Mr WordyDifferent people have different opinions on this, so you pays your money and you takes your choice I guess. Here are a few (randomly Googled) definitions that agree with my position:
Yes, of course. I wasn't even saying you were wrong. I just found a definition in a dictionary that is fairly descriptive in its views and consequently it records actual usage, unlike prescriptive usage experts. Personally, I have no strong opinions either way. The fact remains, though, that 'alternate' is very often used to mean 'alternative'.
My liberal and descriptive attitude towards grammar and usage may have something to do with my studying the history of the English language. The only unchanging thing about it has been change. The grammar has changed, the vocabulary has changed, the pronunciation has changed and the meanings of words have changed - and will keep changing. Nice derives from Latin nescius, which means 'ignorant' but very few people object to its modern meanings even though every one of them was grossly incorrect when first used. Once a word has been used incorrectly for long enough by enough people, it becomes standard English.
People usually have nothing against changes that have happened before they were born but many object vehemently to changes that are taking place in their lifetime. That is human nature. It happens in all languages. It is a common belief that changes that are happening right now somehow seem to be spoiling the language.
CB
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I largely agree with you, but changes that make the language less rich or less precise are bad in absolute terms. If those changes were ever to dominate the positive ones (which add diversity or precision), then eventually we would be reduced to just grunting at one another.
Mr WordyI am one of an apparently dwindling group who believe that "alternately" means "taking turns", and is therefore quite distinct from "alternatively", which means "as an alternative".

You can count me in !
Alternately is taking turns

Alternatively is one or the other

Based on your copied text I believe alternatively is correct

There is some disagreement that both are correct but I prefer the above.
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