ADVERBS After; again; all; almostAlmost, used for mostly, generally: “Neither is it almost seen that very beautiful persons are of
great virtue.” B. E. 163. Our modern meaning nearly is traceable to the fact that anything is nearly done when the most of it is done. Almost (see also Transpositions) frequently follows the word which it qualifies.
“I swoon almost with fear.
Hence in negative sentences we find "not-almost" where we should use "almost not," or, in one word, "scarcely," "hardly."
“As like almost to Claudio as himself.
The Globe omits the parenthesis of the Folio.
“You cannot reason (almost) with a man.
i.e. "is not (I may almost say) fault enough to," &c. or "is scarcely fault enough to," &c. So
“And yet his trespass, in our common reason,
Is not almost a fault . . . to incur a private check.
It was natural for the Elizabethans to dislike putting the qualifying "almost" before the word qualified by it. But there was an ambiguity in their idiom. "Not almost-a-fault" would mean "not approaching to a fault;" "not-almost a fault," "very nearly not a fault." We have, therefore, done well in avoiding the ambiguity by disusing "almost" in negative sentences. The same ambiguity and peculiarity attaches to interrogative, comparative, and other conjunctional sentences.
“I have not breath'd almost since I did see it.
i.e. "Would you suppose without evidence, or (I may almost say) believe upon evidence?" &c.
“Would you imagine or almost believe?
Alone, see One, 18.
“Our aim, which was
To take in many towns ere almost Rome
Should know we were afoot.