Which one of the following 2 sentences is grammatically/ idiomatically more correct:

  • "She is almost a real fan of the jazz band."
  • "She is an almost real fan of the jazz band"


  • With no other context, I'd normally understand an almost real friend as meaning an imaginary friend [who in many respects acts / is treated like a real person]. An AI-powered chatbot, for example. Whereas almost a real friend would actually be a real person, who for some reason could never actually be your friend (perhaps with the implication that you and/or they would like to be "real friends"). – FumbleFingers Jan 9 at 16:35

The almost a real fan version says that she isn't a real fan yet, but she's getting close to being one.

The an almost real fan version says that she is a fake fan, but she is a convincing fake.

Both are grammatical. Which is idiomatically 'correct' depends on what you want to express, but it's probably the first version.

  • 2
    The distinction in meaning would probably be made more clear if commonly accepted styling were used in the second sentence: She is an almost-real fan of the jazz band. The hyphenation clarifies the meaning of the phrase. (An almost-real fan as opposed to a real fan.) In the second sentence, almost is part of a noun phrase. – Jason Bassford Jan 9 at 16:42

She is almost a real fan.

The first sentence means that she is close to being a real fan. Here "almost" modifies "is", showing that she is not quite a real fan. This is idiomatic and probably what you mean.

She is an almost real fan.

The second sentence means that she is a fan who is close to being real. Here "almost" modifies "real" instead of "is", so the sentence states that she is a fan, specifically a fan who is not quite real. This is strange and probably not what you mean.

  • I disagree with "almost" modifies "is". The difference is that in the first ("natural") version, almost modifies the complete noun phrase a real fan (where real is effectively an intensifier, as in She's really a fan, carrying the sense of very much). But in the more "unusual" second version, almost does indeed directly modify real - which as you say, forces the interpretation "close to being real" (rather than "close to being very much"). – FumbleFingers Jan 12 at 13:36
  • @FumbleFingers Hmmm. I disagree (but not very confidently). It seems to me that "almost" changes the degree to which she is the noun phase rather than modifying a noun phrase that she unequivocally is (if that makes sense). Compare to "She almost is a real fan." Do you think the meaning is the same with this change, and do you think "almost" performs an identical function? – Tashus Jan 12 at 15:48
  • 1
    On reflection, I realise that like you, I'm "not very confidently" taking a position here (so I just made a "non-edit" to your answer, just so I could retract my downvote). I can't deny that my default interpretations of, say, He almost was incapacitated and He was almost incapacitated would probably be very different - the first (somewhat "unusual") version might be used even if he never actually suffered any harm at all (he simply had a narrow escape), where the second would usually imply at least some damage (but not enough to completely incapacitate him). – FumbleFingers Jan 12 at 17:04
  • @FumbleFingers cheers. I agree with the "incapacitated" case, but I can't sort out whether this is a grammatical effect or an understood convention. I'll leave the answer as it is for now. – Tashus Jan 12 at 17:27

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