various kinds of fruit

kind, sort, and type

Often there’s no difference between these words. But good dictionaries point to some subtle differences. For example, we can’t use use ‘sort’ or ‘kind’ after a noun in a sentence like: What is your blood type?.

Compare these three English sentences:

1. What is your skin type?
(Expected answer is a precise named category.)
faces showing five different skin types: dry, oily, etc.

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

3. What kind of cheese is that?
(Probable answer is a named kind, but a descriptive answer is also possible.) ‘Type’ and ‘sort’ could also be used in this question.

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 named kinds or 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.’

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36 thoughts on “kind, sort, and type”

  1. 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.

  2. 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

  3. 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.

  4. 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 …?’)

  5. 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..

  6. 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.

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

  8. 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?

  9. 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.’)

  10. 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.

  11. ‘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’.

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

  13. 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.

  14. 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?


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

  16. 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.

  17. 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.

    1. 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.”

  18. 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.
    p.s. this is a very interesting site , thanks God I found it !

  19. 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.

  20. 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?

    1. 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.

  21. 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.

  22. 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.

  23. 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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