I was watching a documentary in German where scientists found a lot of fossils in a small area. Almost all fossils have been from the same species. (Except a few others.) Would it be correct to say:

"They found almost only one species" ?

Alternative research brought up also: "found mainly" and "found basically"

Here is a counterpart at scienceview.com: "Almost no" fossil record exists for soft organisms such as jellyfish and worms.

Further research brings up that "almost only" is very often used in combination with fossils.

  • 1
    ‘Almost only’ can work in some situations (usually with a plural following), but ‘almost only one species’ sounds highly unusual, not to say downright bizarre. Commented Feb 19, 2018 at 22:17
  • You mean for example: "They found almost only fish there" ?
    – FrankMK
    Commented Feb 19, 2018 at 22:19
  • 2
    Except for the fact that fishes is not very common as a plural form of fish, yes. Something like “It’s almost only junior employees who use the cafeteria at work” is perfectly normal. Commented Feb 19, 2018 at 22:21
  • 1
    It sounds like a non-idiomatic translation of fast nur. Fast ausschließlich will get you a more idiomatic translation (almost exclusively).
    – KarlG
    Commented Feb 19, 2018 at 22:32
  • 1
    "Almost all the fossils they found were of the same species." Commented Feb 20, 2018 at 0:13

3 Answers 3


I don't see why we need to get into formal logic. "they found predominantly one species"


You ask whether the following are equivalent:

  1. Almost all fossils have been from the same species. (Except a few others.)
  2. They found almost only one species.

No, they aren't, although both presume a categorisation of the fossils into species.

In #1, most of the fossils are said to belong to one species.

In #2, the number of species found is said to be close to 1, with the word 'only' making 'almost' have the sense of 'more than' rather than 'less than'. So perhaps they found 2 or 3 species. It doesn't carry the sense that most of the fossils belonged to just one species.

(Note: your question's title doesn't appear to match your question's text; my answer above deals with the substance of your question's text. As for "almost only", it's not an idiom in the 'fixed phrase' sense.)


The etymology of only is in part "literally 'one-like,'" according to the Online Etymology Dictionary. So most English speakers will probably find "almost only" a little strange-sounding.

Perhaps something like this would sounds better: "They found not more than one species..." or "not more than a few species" or something along those lines.


EDIT: Or perhaps "They found no more than a single species..."


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