kind, sort, and type

Very often it makes no difference which of these words we use. But good dictionaries point out some subtle differences. In fact, sometimes only one of these words is correct. For example, it would be wrong to use ‘sort’ or ‘kind’ in sentence 1 below.

Compare these three English sentences:

1. What is your blood type?
(Expected answer is a precise named category.)

2. What sort of prices do they charge?
(Expected answer is a description rather than a named category.)

3. What kind of dog is that?
(Probable answer is a named category, but not necessarily as precise as 1 above.
A descriptive answer is also possible.)

So …

  • type‘ usually means a precisely defined category.
  • sort‘ is more general, often about character rather than definition and can be used in a negative way e.g. What sort of person would do a terrible thing like that?
  • kind‘ is about half way between, usually referring to large categories or families of things that are naturally related.

Note that ‘type’ cannot be used as a hedge phrase, as in ‘She’s a bit sort of (or kind of) upset about it.’





36 Comments »

  1. Comment by Nematullah

    is it right to say what sort of person he in English?

  2. Comment by admin

    Yes, “What sort of person is he?” is a common question in English. If you ask this question, you’d expect to hear something about the person’s character.

  3. Comment by Yeleana

    I have a doubt,What is the difference between say
    You are sort of beatiful and You are kind of beatiful
    What is the difference between sort of and kind of in that way

  4. Comment by admin

    There’s very little difference in this case. I think ‘sort of’ sounds a bit less sure.

  5. Comment by Yeleana

    Ohh,ok,so sort of is a little bit less sure and kind of is more sure

  6. Comment by magedpc

    could you please give us more examples about that difference ?

  7. Comment by admin

    When used as ‘hedge phrases’ or ‘softeners’, kind of and sort of are pretty much the same. So “She’s/He’s kind of beautiful/crazy/neurotic.” is similar to “… sort of beautiful/crazy/neurotic.” Kind of is probably more common, especially in American English. To see lots of examples, use double quotation marks in a google search, i.e. “He’s kind of neurotic”, “She’s sort of beautiful” etc. The context and the following sentences will give you an understanding of how the phrases are used. Usually they mean ‘He’s beautiful/crazy/neurotic in a way.’ or they may just express the speaker’s wish to soften what he’s saying.

  8. Comment by Adele

    Is it correct to say ‘What kind of coffee would you like to have’?

  9. Comment by admin

    Yes. That’s what I’d say.

  10. Comment by umi

    what is the difference between type and form?

  11. Comment by admin

    Hi Umi. They’re often used in a very similar way. For example if you asked ‘What type of government does that country have?’ you’d probably get the same answer as from ‘What form of government …?’ e.g. a constitutional monarchy.
    However, sometimes form and type will get different answers. e.g. What type/form of drama is Shakespeare’s Hamlet? Type: a tragedy. Form: a 5-act play. Because ‘form’ means structure or shape of something, whereas ‘type’ is a more general classification.
    And there are times when only one of these two words is right e.g. What type of dog is that? (You wouldn’t ask ‘What form of dog …?’)

  12. Comment by umi

    ohh okay.. i wasnt confused until i was assigned to report about advertising at school and i stumbled on a problem about the difference between the types of advertising and forms of advertising. when i researched on ‘types of advertising’, i got the general classifications/terms like broadcast ad, outdoor ads, etc; and when i searched on forms, i got specific types, like advocacy, billboards, institutional ads, direct mail, etc.. is it not ‘form’ more general than ‘type’? sorry for asking you about my report.. i just wanna be sure before i report in front of the class so when got the same question i would know how to answer. btw, thanks for your reply and help..

  13. Comment by admin

    In the context of advertising, people often use both words interchangeably, but if you want to draw a distinction, I would say that ‘form’ refers to the media used for an ad or the way the ad is put together. So for example informative, commercial and personal ads are types of advertising, and they come in various forms: newspaper ads, TV commercials, etc.

  14. Comment by umi

    wow! thanks for the help.. im glad i found this site. :D id be more confident with my report when my turn comes. thank you thank you very much! *Likes*

  15. Comment by debO

    Excuse me, my English is not so good. I wonder what you meant by “hedge phrase”? Did it mean some way of expression to make the sense less strong?

  16. Comment by admin

    debO, that’s correct. A hedge makes the sense less strong or less direct. Some more examples:
    1. There may be a problem. (Instead of ‘There’s a problem.’)
    2. That’s a bit rude. (Instead of ‘That’s rude.’)
    3. I could be wrong, but I think we should go left here. (Instead of ‘We should go left here.’)

  17. Comment by debO

    Thank you so much, this topic is really helpful to me. I had asked many people included my best teacher but nobody could say what the difference was. Thank you, again. You responded to my curiousity. I hope you’ll post more topics like this cause I’ll keep follow the website.
    Have a good day.

  18. Comment by siraj khan buneari

    i do not understand what is difference between type and kind

  19. Comment by admin

    ‘Type’ is used for named categories in compound nouns like ‘blood type’, ‘hair type’, ‘racial type’. We wouldn’t use ‘kind’ in these examples. But in most other situations, there is little difference between ‘type’ and ‘kind’.

  20. Comment by billy

    Thanks. It really helped me!

  21. Comment by kin

    Hi, in the sentence:
    One Deluxe room with balcony.
    What’s the rack rate of the Hotel for this type/kind of room?
    thanks

  22. Comment by admin

    I would say ‘this type of room’ because ‘Deluxe room with balcony’ is a precisely defined category of room. But I don’t think ‘this kind of room’ is actually wrong.

  23. Comment by Khalid Iqbal

    This type of person is suitable for this job. This kind of person is not suitable for this job.

    Both indicate certain characteristics of the person in question. Would either of the 2 do?

    Khalid

  24. Comment by admin

    Yes, I think so.

  25. Comment by muneeb shahid

    In which sentences will type and kind be used but form will not be used?

  26. Comment by admin

    Hi Muneeb. See Comment 10 above.
    What type/kind of animal/thing/person?
    You wouldn’t normally use ‘form’ in these questions.

  27. Comment by Toby (Linguist)

    Sort= Most likely to be used by British-English speakers
    Kind= Most likely to be used by American-English speakers
    Type= shared fairly equally amongst anglophones, though either will typically opt for Sort/Kind instead of Type, respectively.

  28. Comment by Ann

    Hi there!! Im still confused about the difference between kind and type. Could anyone
    Explain it to me a little more? So for example what kind of salt would you like to use..?
    Which one i should use kind or type? I will really appreciate for your help.

  29. Comment by admin

    Hi Ann. I think this is a case where the first sentence at the top of this page applies: “Very often it makes no difference which of these words we use.”

  30. Comment by Ruby

    Dear ! Thanks for the interesting topic . However , I found the following clarification about type and kind which makes me somewhat confused . Please could you kindly advised me whether my understanding about type and kind is correct ?
    To exemplify: If I were to ask you what kind of car do you drive?
    You may answer: I drive say Mitshubishi Lancer
    However, if I were to ask instead what type of car do you drive?
    You would answer: a sedan.
    Notice, Sedan is a type of car (other cars being SUV’s Trucks, Coupes etc) whereas Mitsubishi Lancer is the specific kind of Sedan.
    Therefore Type refers to a broader group , whereas kind implies a more specific category in a generalized group.
    My understanding is as followed :
    There are some types of food : Vegies , meat , cereal grain….
    There are some types of Vegies : fruit , salad …
    There are some types of fruit : orange , apple , kiwi…
    There are some KINDS of orange : Blood (orange) , Navel (orange) , Valencia(orange)…
    There are some KINDS of apple : Fuji(apple) , Pink lady (apple), Red Delicious(apple).
    Am I correct ? Thanks for your kind response.
    Ruby
    p.s. this is a very interesting site , thanks God I found it !

  31. Comment by admin

    Hello Ruby. The example about cars is a good one. ‘Type’ often refers to categories (such as sedan), whereas ‘kind’ refers to ‘families’ (such as Mitsubishi). It’s worth noting that the origin of the word ‘kind’ is related to ‘kin’ which means ‘family’. However, maybe we’re being too analytical! I don’t think many people would consider it wrong to use either word – kind or type – in your examples. See comment 19 above.

  32. Comment by Riffat

    I hope this is the right place for a question. In British English, what is the difference in meaning between these three questions?

    What types of of school are there in your town?
    What type of schools are there in your town?
    What types of schools are there in your town?

  33. Comment by admin

    Hi Riffat.
    What types of of school are there in your town? Correct in British English (but very unusual in US English). The questioner assumes there are various different types in the town.
    What type of schools are there in your town? Correct if the questioner assumes that all the schools are the same type.
    What types of schools are there in your town? Similar to the first sentence but some older Brits may consider it less correct. Or it could imply that there are a large number of schools of each type in the town.

  34. Comment by kuena

    Please help, we have a problem in teaching business studies on the topic of cheques. The problem is we do not know which are types of cheques open or crossed or they are bearer or order or should we say one is kind of the other?
    For example, the types of cheques are bearer and order the kinds of cheques are open and crossed. Or should we say they are all types or kinds of cheques? Really confused.

  35. Comment by admin

    Hi Kuena. Personally, I would say ‘type/types of cheque’, but it wouldn’t be wrong to say ‘kind/kinds’. As we’ve said before, there are many cases where both words are OK.

  36. Comment by king

    hi!thanks 2 ppl who had in one way or d oda contributed in explaining”types and kind”here.i used 2 feel confused in using dos two words but after visiting dis site,lo and behold,i am a little bit freed.thanks

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