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Imagine there is a certain time required to qualify for the next round in sports and someone exceeds the requirement by only a few seconds, so he almost made it. But can you express this with verbs like "fail". You could say "fail miserably" if the time was exceeded by several minutes but is there an appriopriate adverb here or is "almost making it" the best and only way of saying this?

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You can use the idiom close but no cigar which means came close to succeeding but didn't succeed.

It was close but no cigar for Johnny as he came second once again.

Close, but no cigar! Give it another try.

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