Pitfalls: Most vs. Almost vs. Almost All

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Watch out for these two phrases. Many students confuse them, but their meanings are actually very different. When you use “almost all (of)”/”most (of)” with a noun phrase, and “almost” with a verb phrase, the meanings can be opposite!

“Almost all (of)” means 80-99% (not all, but close to all).

“Most (of)” means more than half, maybe 55-99%.

“Most” and “almost all” are very close to each other. You can use them in similar ways. “Almost all” is a little stronger. If I say “I liked almost all of the food I ate in Taiwan,” it’s stronger than “I liked most of the food I ate in Taiwan.” But both sentences mean that generally I liked the food I ate there.

Let’s talk about “almost all (of)” and “most (of)” only with noun phrases for now. Here are some examples, with underlined noun phrases: most of my friends, almost all of the movies, most of the shops, almost all people, most kittens.

“Almost” means nearly, not quite, close to.

“Almost” goes with verb phrases very often. Here are some examples with just verb phrases,in bold: almost married, almost won the lottery, almost miss the exit, almost bought a car, almost died, almost finished eating.

Anyway, here are some examples of a sentence type where confusing “almost all/most of” and “almost” can really change your meaning:

  • Almost all of the students passed the test.
    Congratulations! The majority of the class members passed the test! There were 30 students and 28 received a grade of C or better. Great!
  • Most of the students passed the test.
    Congratulations! The majority of the class members passed the test! There were 30 students and 22 received a grade of C or better. Great!
  • The students almost passed the test.
    Oh, no. The students got very low scores. Their scores were close to a passing grade, but not close enough. All of the students got less than 50% on the test. They were very close to passing, but they didn’t, so they failed.
  • (And remember to use “all of,” “most,” or put “almost” in the right place every time. You can’t say “almost the students passed.” First, this is ungrammatical. Second, the listener will be confused and not know what you meant. The listener can’t guess whether you meant “almost all of the students passed,” “most of the students passed,” or “the students almost passed.” When you’re speaking English, you can often make small mistakes and still be understood, but not with this kind of phrase!)

  • Almost all of the flowers died.
    I went on vacation for two weeks and didn’t water my 20 roses. 17 of the roses died.
  • Most of the flowers died.
    I went on vacation for two weeks and didn’t water my 20 roses. 15 of the roses died.
  • The flowers almost died.
    I went on vacation. After one week, I remembered that my roses needed to be watered. I called my neighbor and asked if she’d water them. She said the flowers looked very bad! However, she took care of them until I got back. When I came back, my roses were fine. My roses came close to dying because I forgot about them.

Does it make sense? You have to be careful with this one, because you can accidentally change your meaning completely. Watch out!

4 thoughts on “Pitfalls: Most vs. Almost vs. Almost All”

  1. Hi Clarissa! I think I found a mistake in the sentence. In the 9th line from the bottom, you worte’most all of’, but isn’t this ‘most of’?

  2. You are correct, Emmie! Actually, “most all” is somewhat common in speech, depending on one’s dialect, but I try to avoid writing it. My fingers slipped! I’ll correct it.

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