ALMOST/NEARLY vs. ALMOST ALL vs. MOST
(Confusing English Vocabulary)

As an educator of English language nearing two decades of instructional activity, I have come across numerous learner mistakes that needed comments and corrections. There have been a wide variety of points to correct, but over time I’ve begun to see the same errors with the same vocabulary combinations again and again. Therefore, I have come to the conclusion that learners struggling with these points could benefit from focused analysis of the vocabulary and syntax in question.

For the first edition of this English grammar blog series, I chose to focus on an error I encounter frequently with many of my English learners. Many seem to consistently misuse the adverb “almost” in sentences where “almost all,” or “most” would be appropriate. So let’s look at some examples of correct and incorrect usage of this vocabulary.

The following examples are representative of the kind of incorrect constructions I commonly encounter:

“Almost Japanese people are shy.” (INCORRECT)

“Almost people in Japan can read English.” (INCORRECT)

“Almost my projects are related to marketing.” (INCORRECT)

In the above incorrect examples, we can see that “almost” is used in the following incorrect way: ALMOST + NOUN


The correct way to use “almost” in this context, is ALMOST + INDEFINITE PRONOUN (OF), or instead MOST (OF) + NOUN, as in the following example combinations:

Almost all Japanese people are shy.” ORMost Japanese people are shy.” (CORRECT)

Almost all people in Japan can read English.” ORMost people in Japan can read English.” (CORRECT)

Almost all of my projects are related to marketing.” ORMost of my projects are related to marketing.” (CORRECT)


Another correct way to use “almost” to mean “nearly,” is with some verbs, as in the following examples:

“I almost fell down the stairs.” OR “I nearly fell down the stairs.”

“I almost dropped my phone on the ground.” OR “I nearly dropped my phone on the ground.”

“I almost forgot to do my homework last night.” OR “I nearly forgot to do my homework last night.”


Another correct way to use “almost” is with adjectives and past participles, as in the following examples:

“We are almost ready to begin the meeting.” OR “We are nearly ready to begin the meeting.”

“The research phase of the project is almost complete.” OR “The research phase of the project is nearly complete.”

“He is almost finished with his homework.” OR “He is nearly finished with his homework.”

“I’m almost done working for today.” OR “I’m nearly done working for today.”


ALMOST + ADJECTIVE can also be used with TOO and ENOUGH, such as in the following ways:

“This water is almost hot enough for tea.” OR “This water is nearly hot enough for tea.”

“That box is almost too heavy to lift.” OR “That box is nearly too heavy to lift.”

“He is almost old enough to drive a car.” OR “He is nearly old enough to drive a car.”