What's the Difference Between Almost and Mostly?

grammar Jan 15, 2022

A lot of my students and their fellow English learners have trouble with words like almost and mostly. These two adverbs can be confusing, but I'm here to help you get this straight. The key point is to understand how we use almost. And there are 4 different ways that we use almost. 

Almost means not quite or very close or very near 100% or nearly. In other words, almost means close, but not. Close, but not. Simple, right? Well, I think so! The tricky part is understanding the four different ways that we use this word. Let's dive in

First, we use almost plus a past verb. I almost dropped my book means I was close to dropping my book, but I didn’t drop it.  Again, almost means close...but not. Here are some other examples.

  1. I almost missed my train today. The train leaves at 7:18, and I got to the station at 7:15am.
  2. When I slipped in the café, I almost spilled my coffee. Luckily I didn’t.
  3. I had to work late last night, so I almost missed Jack’s party. Luckily the party was still going on when I arrived.

Next, we use almost plus a number. Usually this number is related to time, distance, or other measurement. Almost 10 means about 9:50 or 9:55.

  1. It’s almost We should go home.
  2. I jogged almost 10 miles this morning.
  3. Jane’s baby is almost two years old.

We use almost plus words like everywhere, everyone, everything. Almost everyone means not everyone, but close to everyone.

  1. Almost everyone at the party drank wine.
  2. In Tokyo, convenience stores are almost
  3. Almost everything was damaged in the earthquake, except my antique clock.

Lastly, we use almost plus all plus noun to talk about nearly 100% of some thing.

  1. Almost all Americans like pizza.
  2. Almost all of my friends speak two languages.
  3. I have tried almost all of the dishes in this restaurant. They are so delicious!

You can use mostly to talk about actions you do or actions that happen the majority of the time. I like tea, but I mostly drink coffee. This means that the majority of the time I drink coffee. Another way to think about this is that mostly has the same meaning of almost always. 

  • We mostly eat in, but we go to a restaurant on special occasions.
  • In my free time, I mostly watch movies.
  • It mostly snows in January and February here.
  • Stores mostly sell a lot of products before Christmas.

Add your example sentence(s) in the comments below

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