The expression "kind of" literally means "type of" or "variety of", but because there are a few ways to use "kind of", it might cause confusion. The good news is that using "kind of" can be distinguished in three easy and comprehensible ways:
1. To mean an approximation of, or a quasi-something belonging to that class. For example, "As a native of Phuket, he is a kind of beachcomber." In this example, the use of "kind of" is present, but dim, suggesting a loose characterisation. In other words, this native of Phuket is likely not scavenging the beach for as full-time profession, but can probably be regularly located along the shore.
2. There is also a casual use of "kind of" to mean "rather", "somewhat" or "in a sense". For example, "I know it is only 7pm, but I am kind of tired." This indicates that the speaker is somewhat sleepy or weary despite the early hour. While this use of "kind of" is frequently used and heard in casual conversations, it should not be employed in serious or professional writing.
3. To mean a species of a genus, or more broadly, a subdivision of a general category. For example, "What kind of dog is your new pet?" In this example, the meaning of "kind of" is prominent, specifically asking about the type of dog from the species.
Let's practise! Above are the three numbered uses for "kind of". Look at each sentence below and determine in which way "kind of" is being used: 1, 2 or 3.
a. My favourite kind of apple is Fuji.
b. The internet might be referred to as a kind of massive encyclopaedia.
c. It is kind of late to see a movie.
Answers: c. 2, a. 3, and b. 1
Heather Vlach is an English-language specialist and Intensive Studies educator at the International School Bangkok in Nonthaburi. Her email address is
Heather Vlach is an English-language specialist and Intensive Studies educator at the International School Bangkok in Nonthaburi. Her email address firstname.lastname@example.org .