So, my students in class were conducting surveys of many different topics and one survey in particular said “people who were asked were almost Japanese people”. OK. OK. I understand in the dictionary the word is, “hotondo”. Got it. I know it. That works in Japanese, but in English it sounds like “the people were almost Japanese people, but instead they were like turtles, ninja turtles.” I know sounds silly, but Americans understand that. Or that, like, some of the people were very Japanese, in many ways, but for some reason, a technical reason, perhaps, they weren’t Japanese. But that’s for everyone, either way the student wasn’t talking about partially a half Japanese people, they were talking about the amount of people who were surveyed, OK. That these people are not all Japanese so they wanted to say, “people who were asked were almost all Japanese from but not everyone.” All right. ‘Almost’ needs to be followed with a specialty like ‘almost every any or no’ but anyway more on that later.
“Almost Japanese people” ???
Many people try to say “almost all Japanese people” but end up saying “almost Japanese people”.
The word ‘almost’ is an adverb and it means ‘nearly complete (but in reality not)’ or ‘a step away from achieving something (but in reality not)’. The adverb is used to add more information to verbs or adjectives.
Add information to a verb:
- He is almost taller than his father now.
- t was almost 9 o’clock.
- I almost fell out of the train when the doors opened.
- He almost missed his flight.
- I can almost guarantee you’ll make it on time.
Add information to a verb:
- It is almost funny how he tries to sell that old Galapagos phone.
- The gas tank was almost empty.
Although an adverb can describe a verb or an adjective, it cannot come in front of a noun and describe it directly. Going back to the first example, if ‘almost’ is placed before ‘Japanese people’, it will sound as follows:
“They are almost Japanese people” ???
Okay, so how can we say “ほとんどの日本人”?
One way to say it would be to use the word ‘most’. Since ‘most’ is an adjective, it can describe a noun directly. Put ‘most’ before the noun, then here we go, we have the correct phrase: “most Japanese people”
There is a way to use ‘almost’ too.
As ‘almost’ can directly describe an adjective, we can say ‘almost all’. ‘almost all’ means ‘one step away from all’.
“Almost all Japanese people”
What makes ‘almost’ unique is that while ‘most’ focuses on the majority, it emphasizes the lack of a fraction which is preventing it to become complete.
For this reason, ‘almost’ is often paired up with adjectives such as ‘all’, ‘every’ and ‘no’.
- Almost all Japanese like Ramen.
- Almost every Japanese person likes Ramen.
- Almost no Japanese people like overtime.
As a side note, Japanese word ‘ほとんど’ is a noun as well as an adverb. The Japanese language itself can differentiate 「ほとんど日本人」(almost Japanese) と「ほとんどの日本人」(almost all Japanese).
When ‘ほとんど’ is used as a noun, we say ‘ほとんどの〜’ to connect to a noun. In the phrase「ほとんど日本人」, it is used as an adverb, so it creates the same confusion in meaning as in English ‘almost Japanese’. Like “he is almost Japanese but he has 3% Italian blood…”.
In summary, 「ほとんどの日本人」can correctly be translated into either ’most Japanese people’ or ’almost all Japanese people’.
Lastly, let’s wrap it up with the usage of ‘most’.
‘most’ is used in two ways: ‘most + noun’ or ‘most of the + noun’
When ‘most of the + noun’ is used, it refers to a particular group of things.
When ‘most’ is simply followed by a noun, it refers to things in general.
- ‘most students’ = students in general
- ‘most of the students’ = particular group of students (e.g. students of this school…)
The word ’most’ is used either as ’most students’ or ’most of the students’.
Let me emphasize that if ‘the’ is not needed, so as ‘of’.
Also, it goes without saying that ’most’ indicates some amount or number of things, so make sure you make the noun plural if it is countable.
Now, you’ve almost mastered the difference between ‘almost’ and ‘most’.
The last thing you have to do is to practice so that it will come natural to you![日本語訳へ]