I have heard a few people adding "just" to the phrase "be about to" for emphasis. For example:

I am just about to answer that.

But by definition, "be about to" means that you're going to do something very soon. In that sense, isn't adding "just" kind of redundant? And if adding "just" is ok, what about "almost" or "nearly"? They don't seem to roll off the tongue as well as "just" to me, but there shouldn't be any reason they're any less correct than "just".

  • 2
    "Just about to" is pretty common. The other phrases are less common but still acceptable. Did someone say they were incorrect? Just functions as an intensifier and actually isn't redundant at all. Jul 30 at 21:22
  • @FeliniusRex Actually, I came across someone writing "I was almost about to..." and by meaning, it felt redundant because "almost" and "be about to" had the same meaning. But then I remembered many people used "be just about to", so I wasn't sure.
    – MD P
    Jul 31 at 4:10
  • @MDP Fwiw, per my own experience and Ngram, "was just about to..." is much more common than the present tense and the third person is much more common than the first, although there are situations where the intensification is still helpful for other contexts. JavaLatte's answer below is spot on & justifies that your problem with your author may be justified: it depends on the rest of the context. It might be worth adding to your question.
    – lly
    Jul 31 at 10:39

The set phrase "just about to" is very widely used, and is generally used about time. You use when something occurred moments before you had planned to do something.

I was just about to have lunch when the doorbell rang

"almost about to" and "nearly about to* are, according to this NGram graph, much less common. They can also be used about time, but are more often used about state. They indicate that someone or something were close to a state where something might happen:

I was ... in hysterics facing Molly, who looked like she was almost about to collapse with laughter. - Road to Pheme, Colin Tuffney, 2004

I was nearly about to have a tantrum and stamp my feet, but I let her go on, my feelings sinking. - Dying to know, Josh Langley, 2014


There is a phrase "just about", here is a screenshot on Google

"Just about" can be used to say "almost" like "the pot is almost/just about boiling." The funny thing is that it works equally well if you say "the pot is about boiling," although saying it that way is less common and I think it was more common in the past. It's an example of how English has evolved over time.

I've never heard "be about to", only "about to".

  • 2
    +1, but you've never heard "be about to"? "I was about to leave when he showed up."
    – Eddie Kal
    Jul 31 at 5:27
  • @EddieKal I'm confused, your example sentence doesn't have the "be" in "be about to" unless if I am misunderstanding. The only way I can think of "be about to" working is having the "be" part of "to be", as in "To be about to leave is scary."
    – MattWolc24
    Jul 31 at 5:42
  • 1
    Well, "be" is an irregular verb, and "was" is the first and third person singular past of "be".
    – Eddie Kal
    Jul 31 at 5:45
  • @MattWolc24: You say to EddieKal "your example sentence"... Eddie did not write the question. MD P did. As I see it, this question is about the set phrase be just about to, and its similarity to the set phrase just about is... slight.
    – JavaLatte
    Jul 31 at 7:51
  • @MattWolc24 You've heard it; you just didn't notice it: "should be just about to..." "may be just about to..." "would be just about to..." "might be just about to..." "will be just about to..." "must be just about to..." but they're right that the discussion above was using be for all its conjugations including am, is, are, was, were, &c.
    – lly
    Jul 31 at 10:43

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