Tuesday, September 29, 2009

'Most' and 'Almost'

Below I'm trying out the coloring and centering features. They make the writing look like poetry, don't you think? The topic of this post is again one that was inspired by my private student who was confused about these words. His errors made me recall the many other students, especially Japanese and Korean, who often misused 'almost' and 'the most.' So, here's a little lesson on their usage.

all (or Most) students have had problems understanding
when to use 'most'and 'the most (+ noun)' and how to use 'almost.'
Are you one of those students?
If so, I hope that these examples and a few sentences will help you
get the feel for how and when to use these expressions.

It is often said that
'Most people like pasta.'
If you mean that the majority of people (everywhere) like pasta,
then do not use 'the' in front of 'most'.

**The most people like pasta**
is a grammatically incorrect sentence.
However, if you are referring to
the largest number of people that you've ever seen

or the largest quantity of food you've ever eaten,
then you could say,
The most people (that) I've ever seen in my life were at
President Obama's inauguration ceremony last year.'
Or, if you're talking about pasta, you could say,
'The most pasta I've ever eaten was in Italy.'

Some other ways to use 'most' follow:
"Most of the students at my school are from Switzerland", or
"Most students at my school are from Switzerland."

Now, when should you use almost?
What is the meaning of 'almost'?
What part of speech is it?
'Almost' is an adverb which can be used to
modify the meaning of adjectives (also verbs and adverbs).
Therefore, we wouldn't say,
**Almost people enjoy going to the beach in San Diego.**
Almost in this case is not the same as most.

lmost can precede a quantifier (a type of adjective), such
as 'all' or 'every' in 'everyone',
to create the meaning 'close to/nearly all'
or 'close to/nearly everyone.'
Then the following two sentences,
'Almost all people enjoy going to the beach in San Diego,' or
'Almost everyone likes going to the beach in San Diego'
have very similar meanings and are grammatically correct .


Clarissa said...

These are a constant bugaboo for my Japanese students, too. I think I tried addressing it at readableblog.com in the past, but it's a sticky issue. I think the way you presented it is a good try as well, and using color is a nice way to help visual learners (in particular) keep the words straight. I'm going to borrow that next time!

Evelyn said...

Thanks very much for your comment, Clarissa. I will check out readableblog.com, and I'd be pleased if you use the material presented here. Glad you like the color, too. ;-)