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Improve Your English / Poboljsaj Znanje Engleskog
(in cooperation with BBC UK, Learning English - Learn it Program and Roger Woodham)

This week's question is :
I have always had problems using the words kind and type. Is there any difference and can you give me some examples of usage?

... and the answer is :
  kinds of / sorts of / types of / varieties of

Kinds, sorts, types and even varieties can all be used interchangeably, (although varieties may be used more in more scientific sorts of contexts, e.g. varieties of tomato) The first three are very common and can be used in singular and plural forms. Compare the following and note that all the examples today are taken from a global music theme:

What kind(s) / type(s) / sort(s) / varieties of music do you like most? ~ I like all kinds / sorts / types: hip-hop, R&B, pop, rock, rap and classical.

Global Music Ė or World Music as it is known in Britain Ė is the synthesis of different kinds of music from around the world, often using traditional instruments in an original way.

If you want to know what type of instrument a morinhoor is, how to find music from Yakutia or how to buy an organo pinareno from Cuba, Global Music websites can help you

various / different / many / all - kinds / types / sorts varieties

These nouns collocate readily with different, various and many as well as with all:

There are various kinds / types / sorts / varieties of jazz, originating with ragtime, blues and swing of the 20s and 30s and then the later varieties of hard bop, soft bop, funky, third stream and free styles of the 50s and 60s.

sort of (a) / kind of (a) / type of (a)

Sort of / kind of / type of are usually followed by an uncountable noun or a singular countable noun with no article, but a / an is sometimes retained in an informal style:

What sort of (a) / kind of (a) / type of (a) dance is that?

Well, itís a sort of jig or reel, danced to very fast time. I donít know exactly what it is because there are several types of jigs Ė single jigs, double jigs, slip jigs and hop jigs.

Note that when the indefinite article is retained, it sometimes has a derogatory meaning:

What kind of a DVD player is that? You donít seriously expect me to listen to electronic music with no surround sound, do you?

sort of / kind of

Sort of and kind of, but not type of, are used in another important way in informal spoken English when we want to demonstrate to the listener that we are not speaking very precisely but simply indicating a general idea. They are used to modify many different parts of speech including adjectives, verbs and clauses, see below:

Why donít you like this kind of music? ~ Well, itís sort of loud and tuneless.

They may also be used as fillers, i.e. to fill a gap in the conversation and to give the speaker more time to think:

How would you describe your singing voice on this track?

Well, IÖ I kinda howl like a wolf, and then ...kinda...kinda...squeal like a pig, but it seems to work, sort of.

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