The adverb ほとんど
is used in many situations in Japanese, and often translates as ‘most’, ‘hardly any’, ‘almost all’, and similar expressions. The nuance will always depend on the rest of the sentence. The most accurate translation for the word ほとんど
itself is simply ‘almost’, where the thing that it is describing is always considered to be a full group, rather than a single thing.
As with many other adverbs that highlight an ‘amount’ in Japanese, ほとんど
can modify a whole phrase, or can be used before の
, to further specify a single noun.
Most of my homework is done.
I didn’t eat most of my lunch, but I ate all the snacks.
Most people can’t read my name.
Most college students live with their parents.
In negative sentences, ほとんど
translates as ‘hardly any’. This is mainly due to the ‘full group’ that ほとんど
is describing being highlighted as almost ‘not’ existing.
There are hardly any food stalls this year.
I hardly go out during the weekends.