Why can't I say 'I almost don't sleep? Is there any rule about it?

  • 1
    Who says you can't say that? – Michael Rybkin Feb 5 '19 at 16:42
  • native speaker said – lot kob Feb 5 '19 at 16:44
  • Perhaps he thought your intended meaning didn't match what the sentence meant in context. It doesn't sound quite right if you are talking about whether you are sleeping at that particular time. I.e. "Yes, you are waking me up, but it's OK; I almost don't sleep." Would not sound right in English. – Lorel C. Feb 5 '19 at 16:48
  • @LorelC.-- Your comment would be a useful addition to your answer. – Jasper Feb 5 '19 at 18:31

You can say, "I almost don't sleep." In an ongoing situation where sleep is very difficult for a period of time, it means you get very little sleep during that period. E.g.:

"I have always been a light sleeper, but now that I am in medical school, I almost don't sleep."

It sounds fine to me.

  • 3
    In principle you could use almost don't sleep in contexts like your example. But in practice I suggest almost no-one ever would - they'd use some variant of hardly [ever] sleep [at all]. – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Feb 5 '19 at 17:29
  • @FumbleFingers -- Your comment would make a good answer. – Jasper Feb 5 '19 at 18:30
  • @Jasper: I dunno. As it stands, I have no idea whether OP (or indeed, Lorel above) are thinking in terms of almost not sleep meaning sleep incredibly lightly or sleep very rarely / briefly. If the former, there might be a case for claiming that the extremely unusual phrasing justifiably reflects an extremely unusual meaning (if spoken by a competent native speaker; it would be completely pointless to assume unusual phrasing = unusual meaning coming from a non-native speaker). – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Feb 5 '19 at 18:36
  • On reflection, I've decided to downvote this answer, because I think "It sounds fine to me" is misleading, to say the least. – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Feb 5 '19 at 18:39
  • A similar sentiment and more 'natural' would be "I have always been a light sleeper... but now I get almost no sleep" which I think is more what was intended by your context of 'medical school' (i.e. that you don't get the opportunity to sleep because of long hours, on-call shifts etc). Btw in this case the 'sleep' changes from a verb to a noun. – seventyeightist Feb 5 '19 at 19:20

I don't think it's ungrammatical, but it's not a natural way to say anything for a native speaker. "I almost don't" wouldn't be a construction you see very often.

"I barely" would be fine, and "I almost didn't" would also be fine (they mean different things from one another), but "I almost don't" is just not something you see. So, "I barely sleep" means that, in general, one sleeps very little. "I almost didn't sleep" means that, on one occasion or perhaps over a period of time, one came close to not sleeping.

  • I barely don't sleep is correct? – lot kob Feb 5 '19 at 20:12
  • No, "I barely sleep". I'll edit to clarify. – SamBC Feb 5 '19 at 20:47

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.