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Understand ALMOST and MOSTLY

The difference between "almost" and "mostly"
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"Almost" and "mostly" are confusing for Japanese people learning English. They are not easy to translate. Read on to learn more about these words and why they are trouble.

"Almost" and "mostly" are confusing for Japanese people learning English. Part of the problem is the Logic Trap we talked about in another post.

I hope I can make the difference between "almost" and "mostly" clear for you. They are nearly the same, but there is a difference in the idea behind them. That is what makes them difficult, and why people have trouble.

Almost

"Almost" means "nearly", "not perfectly" or "close to".

  • If you work until 6pm, and it is 5.55pm, you are almost finished. But the key is that you are not 100% finished. You cannot say, "I'm finished!"
  • Think about a chimpanzee. A chimpanzee is very similar to a person. Chimpanzees are almost people, but they are still not people.
  • A week before my wedding, I am almost married. But, I am still not married.

Mostly

"Mostly" means "the biggest part", "usually" or "mainly".

  • If I have ten things to do, and I have done 9, then I am mostly finished.
  • Look at the top part of the picture on the right. It's mostly people, and one monkey.
  • "Mostly married" doesn't make any sense.

Compare "almost" and "mostly"

"Mostly" means more than half of a group. If I have 10 sweets, and 7 are chocolate, I can say, "These sweets are mostly chocolate." Can I say that my sweets are almost chocolate? No. Some are, and some are not, chocolate. "Almost chocolate" sounds like fake chocolate.

"Almost" means "close to". So, imagine I am in a car driving home. I turn into my street. I am almost home. Can I say I am mostly home? Yes, but "mostly home" means something different:

  • If I stay home every night of the week, but on Friday night, I go bowling, then I am mostly home in the evenings—6 of 7 nights I am at home.

Try it out!

There are some special cases, and it is not always so simple, but this is the main idea. Try to practice. Send us your examples to check.

  • Matthew's picture
    Matthew
    About me
    I am from New Zealand. I lived in Japan and Brazil for a long time, but now I am back home in Auckland. I am the founder of Poligo. I like to play guitar and video games and surf when I get the chance. I have a wife and two boys.
    Experience
    I specialize in teaching English to professionals and English teachers. I have taught English since 2001 in Japan, New Zealand and Brazil. I speak Japanese & Portuguese. I am the founder of Poligo and The English Farm (an online school for business English).

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