Alternate vs. Substitute

Difference Between Alternate and Substitute

Generally, ‘alternate’ and ‘substitue’ are considered synonyms. People use them interchangeably. But there is a lot of differences between the two. Alternate conveys the meaning, ‘to succeed by turn.’ It means one thing following the other in rotation in time or place. The word ‘substitue’ means ‘replacement’. This is the main difference between the two.

It should be kept in mind that the word ‘alternate’ means ‘by turns’ that is one thing comes, and then another comes, then comes first again, and then comes another and so on. The word ‘substitute’ means ‘to take the place of other permanently’. It means ‘to replace with’.

‘Alternate’ is reciprocal in sense and use while ‘substitute’ is not in this sense. This is the difference.

The word ‘alternate’ means ‘every other’ and ‘every second object’. Look at the sentences below.

He goes to the doctor every alternate Friday.

You should have taken the medicine on alternate days.

In these sentences, the word ‘alternate’ means ‘every other’ or every second one.

the word ‘substitute’ means ‘to put something or someone in place of another’. Look at the sentences below.

She has come to the position as a substitute in the company.

There is no substitute of truth.

In the first sentence an employee takes the position of another one who was badly performing his duty. Here the word ‘substitute’ is used in the sense of ‘put someone in place of another person’. The word ‘substitute’ in the second sentence conveys the sense of ‘no other option is viable’. The meaning is that ‘Nothing can replace truth, it is the best option’.

Thus, the difference between ‘substitute’ and ‘alternate’ is clear. These two words should not be used interchangeably.


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