Why Shouldn’t You Say “Most Everybody’s Here”?
by Owen Fourie
It’s a party, and most everyone’s here, so do come over. You’re most welcome!
You hear the phrase “most everyone” used quite often in speech. It appears in writing too. Search for it on the Internet, and it is easily found in many places. Is it correct?
Native English speakers know that “almost everyone” is the correct expression, and when they hear “most everyone” they find it unacceptable.
In formal speech and writing, “most everyone” should not be used.
To understand the correct usage, let’s examine the words most and almost.
This word is used to refer to the greatest part, number, amount, or extent of something.
Most is used as an adjective
- The candidate who wins the most votes will become the chairman.
- Of the three swimmers, she shows the most determination.
- Most birds can fly.
Most is used as a noun or a pronoun
- If you apply this lesson, you have the most to gain from it.
- Most of the city was affected by the blackout.
Most is also used as an adverb
- He worked most diligently to complete his essay.
- She composed a most delightful tune for his narrative poem.
Almost is a word that has been in use for more than a thousand years as a combination of the Old English words for all and most.
It is used as an adverb for an action that is short of the mark or a state that is nearly accomplished.
- She had almost finished her essay when the blackout occurred.
- He has lived in that apartment for almost eight years.
What’s the problem with phrases such as most everyone and most everybody?
When someone uses these phrases, how are we to understand them? How is the word most being used? Is it being used as an adjective, a noun, a pronoun, or an adverb?
Since everyone and everybody are pronouns, most could be used as an adjective modifying the pronoun.
If we say “most everyone,” which greater part of everyone do we mean? Are we referring to everyone’s head and trunk or everyone’s trunk and legs?
Of course, this is not what is intended, and most is being used as an adverb.
Distinguish between formal usage and informal usage
Formal usage in speech and in writing requires us to use the correct adverb, almost:
- Almost everyone is here.
- Almost everybody is here.
In other words, nearly everyone who was invited to the party is here. Only a few have not arrived. It is a state of full attendance that is nearly accomplished.
Informal usage, particularly in speech, allows for most in place of almost.
A literary example using most instead of almost
Using most instead of almost is not unknown in literature. Take, for instance, the following:
We tap at a door in an old, old street in Soho: an old maid with a kind, comical face opens the door, and nods friendly, and says, “How do, sir? ain’t seen you this ever so long. How do, Mr. Noocom?” “Who’s here?” “Most everybody’s here.”
This passage is found in the 25th chapter of The Newcomes, a novel by the British author William Makepeace Thackeray. It was published in 1855. Of course, Thackeray was depicting colloquial usage, but it tells us that this manner of speaking is not a recent development.
I am sure, though, that most everyone—sorry—almost everyone will agree that we should say “almost everyone is here,” not “most everyone is here.”
Sometimes it is interesting to observe how people react to correct or incorrect usage. If you are brave enough, try using “most everyone” in speech in a formal context and observe the reaction. In an informal context, correct someone’s use of “most everyone” and see the reaction. Share your observations here. Your comments, observations, and questions are welcome.
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