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What’s the Alternative?


Ask a Teacher
What’s the Alternative?
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This week we answer a question we received in an email from Mohamad:

Question: Could you explain more about the meaning of the word "alternative?" Thank you.

Answer:

Dear Mohamad:

In general, the word “alternative” can be used to describe a choice between two or more things. Sometimes one alternative is not better or worse than another. Here, it is used as a noun and means the same as “choice.”

At U.S. restaurants, more customers now order alternatives to meat.

But sometimes you hear the word “alternative” when the speaker means one choice is better than the other. For example, some people now want to choose a fuel that is cleaner than oil to make electricity.

Power companies are looking for alternative sources of energy.

In that sentence “alternative” is used as an adjective; it modifies the noun “sources.”

You may also hear the word “alternative” when people talk about music. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, a number of independent artists decided they did not want large music corporations to control their music. They began making songs for smaller audiences.

The band called ‘Nirvana’ was one of the most famous alternative rock bands of the 1990s.

Here, “alternative” means something that is attractive to a few people, instead of to a large, general audience. It can be used the same way to describe fashion.

Young people who like hip-hop musicians wear their alternative fashion of loose-fitting pants and shirts.

Another common use for “alternative” relates to medical care. Alternative treatments are outside of the usual medicines and surgeries that doctors recommend.

People with stress-related diseases often try alternative treatments, such as meditation and yoga.

As you can see, any time you have a choice between something that is normally accepted and a new and different thing, you can say there is an “alternative” to think about.
And that’s Ask a Teacher!

I’m Jill Robbins.

Dr. Jill Robbins wrote this story for Learning English. Kelly Jean Kelly was the editor.

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Words in This Story

adjective – n. a word that describes a noun or a pronoun

noun - n. a a word that is the name of something (such as a person, animal, place, thing, quality, idea, or action)

hip-hop n. rap music

meditation n. the act or process of spending time in quiet thought

yogan. a system of exercises for mental and physical health

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