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Is the collocation "almost exactly" grammatical, when one is trying to express that something is almost at the edge of being exact? E.g.:

...and it's almost exactly like...

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    ...a liquid, which is almost, but not quite, entirely unlike tea. – Armen Ծիրունյան Nov 18 '13 at 17:53
  • ... all these personal opinions with no references ... – GEdgar Nov 18 '13 at 22:18
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    "Almost exactly" is in fact way more correct English than "correct english". – RegDwigнt Nov 18 '13 at 23:45
  • Almost certainly the answer to the OP is bordering on 'vaguely'. – Peter Point Jan 30 '17 at 0:53
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Yes, I can see no problem with this phrase.

Exactly is an adverb, meaning precisely, perfectly or without error.

Almost is an adverb, and means very nearly, or not quite.

There is no problem using consecutive adverbs to describe a situation, and I can't think of a better, single word substitute for describing a situation where two things are very nearly, but not quite, precise or without error.

I think one could describe identical twins as almost exactly alike, for example.

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"Almost exactly" is an oxymoron. Technically, it can be used; it would depend on the circumstances to say whether it truly should though.

Stating that I have almost exactly 3.25 liters in this container implies that I am much closer than if I simply stated that I have almost 3 and a quarter liters.

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  • I read "almost exactly" as a plain-language approximation of the concept in mathematics of the limit. Wouldn't 3 1/4 be an exact value while 3.25 would mean 3.25 =/- 0.005? – Michael Owen Sartin Nov 18 '13 at 18:10
  • As I said, in such a scenario it would be fine. However, if you were not talking in a more scientific/mathematical setting then stating you had almost exactly said amount would be odd and/or unnecessary. Saying "I have almost exactly $3" is weird. Instead you would say "I almost have $3" (or if you have slightly more "I have a little more than $3"). – Doc Nov 18 '13 at 18:41
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    @ Michael Owen Sartin NO! 3 1/4 and 3.25 are exactly equal. "3.25 to 3sf" is what you are going on to define; the confusion arises because the degree of rounding is often not mentioned after the first instance (and sadly, sometimes, not even then). Of course, when one says 'there is 3 1/4 litre / 3.25 litre petrol in the tank', one is making a tacit approximation. – Edwin Ashworth Nov 19 '13 at 22:51
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"Exactly" is exactly what it says - not "nearly" or "almost". So if you mean nearly or almost, say that, not exactly.

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  • The point of my question is correctness. – Bleeding Fingers Nov 18 '13 at 19:09
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'Exactly' is one of those words like 'unique'.

Many will argue that something is either unique or it isn't. I remember being told at school (in the 1950s). 'It can't be "almost unique", boy. Something is either unique or it isn't'. I never understood this at the time and still don't now. Why can't something be nearly unique? After all one can in football 'almost score a goal'.

'Exact' is similar. I see no reason at all why something cannot be 'almost exact'. If the exact answer is e.g. 4.43, and 100 people give answers, the three nearest being 4.0, 4.6, and 4.429, I consider it perfectly reasonable to describe the third as 'almost exactly right'.

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  • What thing would you consider to be "almost unique"? Things are either unique or they aren't. A goal can be almost scored based on distance. I can kick a ball and it can go far to the left of the goal or it can hit the post. One is quite clearly nearer to being "in" than the other. When discussing uniqueness though, if something isn't unique it's impossible to determine how close it is to unique (or how "much" a given change is; it isn't measurable). All objects that aren't unique are "almost unique" so what's the point of saying it? – Doc Nov 20 '13 at 6:46
  • @Doc I would say that it is 'almost unique' for a person to represent England at both both football and cricket. (In history there are actually 12 who have achieved it, but if asked I think most people in Britain would say that it was 'almost unique') – WS2 Nov 20 '13 at 7:59
  • while I'd love to debate the topic, the comments aren't the place for it. – Doc Nov 20 '13 at 14:44
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There is a lot of space on either (/all sides in 3D) side of a point (in space, in time ...)

In almost exactly, 'almost' is a secondary modifier describing nearness to that point, not that point per se.

Extreme adjectives cannot be qualified (*very unique / *more unique) but nearness to that extreme can be (almost unique [I know of one other]; almost exactly 10 pm [3 seconds after]).

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