Having just had a chat with Em1, I noticed that some words or phrases that mean almost will mean less than when used alone, and other synonyms will mean greater than.
For example, nearly and close to seem to mean less than when used alone:
- You're nearly 30!
- You're nearly there.
- We've close to the required number of participants.
Whereas barely and just seem to mean greater than or equal to:
- He's barely 18!
- We've barely enough for breakfast.
- We've just finished.
- They'll just be coming over the hill.
If you swap any of the adverbs around then the meaning goes with them. However, if you change the context a little bit then the meaning can switch around:
- 31 is close to 30.
- We're just short of the required number.
If we take the over/under question of Em1:
The village is located [almost] 30 km to the south of London.
How can you tell if a synonym for almost means less than or greater than?