Alter and altar are two commonly confused words in the English language. How do you know when to use each one?
The two words are pronounced in the exact same way, and their spellings are almost identical too. Despite these similarities, their definitions are not related at all. It is important to learn the difference between alter and altar, because one word is used to talk about change and the other is used to talk about religion. You wouldn't want to mix them up!
Let's look at some examples to help you learn the distinction.
The word alter is a verb, and means to change something a little bit. The opposite of alter is to preserve, or to keep something the way it is.
The noun form of alter is alteration, which means a small change. Another way to say alter is to make an alteration, which means to make a change.
Another word that comes from alter is alternative, which means another possibility or another option (i.e., a possibility that represents a change from the original choice). Alternative also means something different. The word alternative can be both a noun and an adjective.
The word altar is a noun. It has two meanings, both related to religion. Altar can refer to the table at the front of a church where priests perform ceremonies.
In weddings, the bride's father walks her to the altar, where the groom is waiting for her.
Altar can also mean a table or block used for religious rituals. Some people have altars in their homes, which they decorate with candles and pictures of saints. A synonym for this definition of altar is shrine.
One way to remember the difference between alter and altar is to think about the spellings of the two words. Alter has two different vowels, a and e. When you notice that the vowels are different, you can remember that alter means to change or to make something different. Also, keep in mind that alter is much more common than altar.
Henry and Luisa are going to get married next week. They are having a traditional wedding in a church, and the ceremony will take place at the altar.
The altar was recently altered. Henry and Luisa love the alterations that were made! The church was beautiful before, but the new altar is even better. Henry can't wait to meet Luisa at the altered altar.
In preparation, Henry and Luis are going over the details of the ceremony. They have written their vows, but they might alter them a little bit. The menu might be altered slightly too. Henry and Luisa are sure their guests will have a great time at the wedding, whether or not they make alterations. Everyone loves watching people get married, especially by a beautiful altar!
Answer the following 10 questions and then check your answers. Each question is worth 10 points.
Part 1: 1. B | 2. C | 3. C | 4. APart 2: 1. B | 2. A | 3. C | 4. D | 5. B | 6. C