Most vs. Almost

By Maeve Maddox

A reader wonders why some speakers write “most everybody” when what they mean is “almost everybody.” For example:

Most everyone agrees that children benefit from living with two caring parents.

“Most everyone” is commonly heard in colloquial speech but is avoided in formal speech and writing because most is a superlative. Most refers to the greatest part, number, amount, or extent of something:

I have finished most of my chores.

Most dogs have tails.

That’s the most awesome song on the album.

Almost is used to convey the idea of something nearly completed or close to being finished:

Mr. Henry has almost finished building the bridge.

We almost won the game.

Almost everyone agrees that children benefit from living with two caring parents.

The objection to “most everyone,” and “most anyone” is that most applies to quantities capable of being separated. One can say “Most dogs have tails,” but not “Most dog have tails” or “Most dog have a tail.” Apart from surgery or mutilation, dog is not divisible. Neither are words like everybody, everyone, all, and any.

The use of most in the following examples is nonstandard because the word is being used to qualify something that is not divisible:

Incorrect: Most everyone agrees that cheating is bad.
Correct: Almost everyone agrees that cheating is bad.

Incorrect: I think most everybody will agree that summer flies by too fast.
Correct: I think almost everybody will agree that summer flies by too fast.

Incorrect: I feel like most all of my friends are fake.
Correct: I feel like almost all of my friends are fake.

If you find yourself writing most when what you mean is nearly or approximately, change it to almost.

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6 Responses to “Most vs. Almost”

  • S Churchill PhD

    Incorrect: I feel like most all of my friends are fake.
    Correct: I feel like almost all of my friends are fake.

    Better: I feel like most of my friends are fakes.

  • Heather

    “Most awesome”? Too many problems with this phrase to list.
    Ugh.

  • Curtis

    I do this myself–usually not mindfully. It might be something in the family dialect. If you consider it a contraction of “most of” or “mostly,” then it makes more sense, even if it’s still bad grammar.

  • Dale A Wood

    Most= 51 percent or more
    Almost all = 95 percent or more.
    Hence these expressions are not equivalent.

  • venqax

    I think it is a casual abbreviation of “most of”. Most of the group that is everybody thinks the summer flies by too fast. That said, I can’t peg it as wrong,really, but I would agree that it is too casual for formal writing.

  • thebluebird11

    @ venqax: Agreed.
    @ S Churchill: BEST: I feel as if most of my friends are fakes.

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