Does "almost" always mean "less than"?

Like, is 26 almost 25?
If no, I’ll change my usage, because I’ve always swung both ways. :eek:

+1ºC is almost freezing.

“Almost” means “has not quite reached the point of.” So with ages, it would be up – with plummeting temperatures, it would be down.

IMHO, the most common usage of “almost” is in terms of magnitude. If you are approaching your destination, “almost there” means that the distance you have left to go is still greater, but close to, your goal. Same thing with temperature.

But I think that saying “I’m almost a billionaire” when you have 1.1 billion dollars would be incorrect, since you have already reached the stated goal.

I’d say it depends on the context. I would describe almost as closely approaching, but not reaching. If the temperature is 60F in my house, I might say it’s almost too cold since it’s close to the point where it’s too cold. So, numerically, almost is not always less than. But, if you define a point in which something is the benchmark for your assertion, then “almost” would be slightly less impactful/intense/correct/whatever than that benchmark.

Edit: I need to find a way to write my posts in less than 5 minutes :slight_smile:

Well, Jonny, that’s kinda what I’m asking. I’ve always used it that way. I’d also call -1ºC almost freezing. (I stole your º sign. Thanks.) :slight_smile:
If you’re driving and pass where you were supposed to turn, then make a u-turn and go back, don’t you say “I almost missed my turn”?


Well, Mangeorge, that’s kinda what he’s answering. He’s telling you your usage is correct.


Why am I getting “Are you sure you want to navigate away from this page” when I click on links on this page?

I’d say I had missed my turn since I had exceeded the point in which I was supposed to turn. To put it another way, if you define hot as 90F and it’s 92F outside, you don’t say “It’s almost hot out here” because the point in which it became hot has already been exceeeded. You’d just say that it’s hot.

Edit : Actually, I see what you’re saying now. But in this case you almost missed your turn, not because you had passed it up, but because you nearly failed to realize that you had already passed the turn.

I have a feeling that this thread is about to leave everybody’s brain aching.

No :confused: on my part. I’m agreeing. Or rather “further discussing”.

It doesn’t sound like he’s telling him his usage is correct to me (not that he’s telling him it’s incorrect). +1ºC is almost freezing because it’s close to the freezing point without being there. Had Johnny L.A. said -1ºC is almost freezing, then I’d agree with you.

“Almost” differs from “about”, and shares with “nearly”, the connotation of “approaching close to, but not quite at the point of, the defined comparison.” The mode in which it approaches varies, and is clear from the context in nearly all instances. 33 degrees F is “almost freezing” in a downward scale; 99 degrees C is “almost at the boiling point” in an upward scale. Abstract numbers not measuring quantities are nearly always cardinals progressing upward; with the appropriate “-th” or “-n/rd”, ordinals whose direction is again obvious from context: “Second best is not good enough” is descending, where “best” equals “first best”; Allen Sherman’s parody of the Marseillaise is likewise descending:

:Louis the Sixteenth was the King of France
In seventeen eighty-nine.
He was worse than Louis the Fifteenth;
He was worse than Louis the Fourteenth;
He was worse than Louis the Thirteenth;
He was the worst
Snce Louis the First."

The OP asks whether “almost” always means “less than,” and indicated he sometimes uses it where the quantity called “almost” is more than, not less than.

Johnny gave an example where the quantity called “almost” is more than, not less than.

Most likely explanation: Johnny thinks OP’s usage is correct.

What I was trying to say is that it is not always “less than” but rather “approaching but not yet there” – “I weigh almost 150 pounds” suggests that my weight is in the 147-149 pound range by itself, but “I’ve been dieting and my weight is almost 150 pounds” suggests qualified success in losing weight, and a range of 151-153 pounds.

This doesn’t follow. The OP’s statement:

“Almost does not always mean less than” is true, such as in the case of something being almost freezing.

However, the OP’s usage:

“26 is almost 25” is only correct if, like a bunch of people have said, you are counting downwards. If you were talking about your age, it would be incorrect. Likewise, -1 C is not almost freezing unless you’re saying that it is unusually warm today for Antarctica: “Wow, the temperature almost got up to freezing today!”

The use of almost in other contexts, like almost being hit by a car or almost missing a turn has the same connotation of “it came very close but did not actually happen”. The u-turn instance is debatable, because even if you actually missed the turn (hence the U), in the context of your overall journey you succeeded in making the turn. For example:

"On the way to grandma’s I almost missed the turn, but I backtracked a few miles and got on the right road after all.

“On the way to grandma’s I missed the turn, but I backtracked a few miles and got on the right road after all.”

Those would both be correct, whereas these would not:

“On the way to grandma’s I almost missed the turn, but I kept going and took I-10 instead.” (The driver never took the intended road)

“Honey, you almost missed the turn to grandma’s house – we just passed it!” (During the trip, the driver missed the turn and has to go back. After the trip, the driver can say he almost missed the turn, but got on the right road after all.)

The “missed a turn” thing.
A woman would say “Oops, you’re,right, I missed my turn”.
A man would say “No, there’s a billboard up the road I want to see”.

Almost almost always means “less than” but “less than” does not always mean “a smaller amount than.”

Many times almost does mean “less than” in ordinary quantity. It can also be used as follows:

“Almost” can be used to mean less than the fully expressed ideal to which something is being compared. It is the context which makes clear what the fully expressed ideal is, and “almost” simply means that conceptual ideal has not quite been obtained. Note I am using the term “ideal” to mean a conceptual ideal; not something wonderful or something that is as extreme a state as possible. Absolute zero is a perfectly extreme state, but 0 and 32 degrees F are also ideals in their common usage.

Note these examples:

If the fully expressed concept is “raw” (as in “unripe”):
This steak is almost raw.

If the fully expressed concept is “overcooked” (as in shoe leather):
This steak is almost overcooked.

If the fully expressed concept is “freezing” (as in “so frigging cold it’s cold enough to make water a solid”)
It’s almost freezing.

If the fully expressed concept is “too young to have accomplished that.”
She (the 20 y/o concert violinist) is almost a teenager.

Leave me alone.
I’m working on my adverb usage.
Next, “nearly”.

Almost empty?