Grammar GuideSpellingWhat's the difference between "alternatively" and "alternately"?

What's the difference between "alternatively" and "alternately"?

What's the difference between "alternatively" and "alternately"?

Alternatively and alternately are both adverbs with different meanings. Learning the appropriate way to use each will clarify your writing.

Alternatively means making a choice between two or more options. e.g. Since she had 16 shirts and 4 skirts, she could alternatively wear as many different combinations at work as she wanted.

Alternately means taking turns or replacing one with another. e.g. In an injection system, oil is alternately injected with water, and each round of oil is followed by a round of water.

The noun forms have similar meanings to the adverbs.

Alternative means you have a choice between one or the other. Alternate means you use something in place of the original, like an "alternate route" when the roads are closed.

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Dictionary Definition of alternativelyDictionary Definition of alternately

Examples of alternatively in a sentence

Alternatively, run a blowtorch over the meringue until it is nicely caramelized.
- Cooking for Friends by Gordon Ramsay; Ditte Isager

Examples of alternately in a sentence

Thread the pork and lime wedges alternately on skewers.
- Mark Bittman's Kitchen Express: 404 Inspired Seasonal Dishes You Can Make in 20 Minutes Or Less by Mark Bittman
The inhabitants of Istar cowered indoors, alternately cursing or calling upon the gods.
- Time of the Twins by Margaret Weis; Tracy Hickman
That she hadn’t been treating me alternately like a sex toy and a doormat.
- The smoke room: a novel of suspense by Earl W. Emerson
We could oscillate, Spinner, alternately falling and being repelled.”
- Ring by Stephen Baxter
Test yourself

Choose the missing word in each question.