How to use “kind of”

By 15 July 2019 Video lessons 10 Comments
Kind of in English

If you have American colleagues or you deal with American businesses, you probably heard the expression “kind of” at some point. But it’s used in different contexts!
How can you use the expression to sound casual and confident? What mistakes should you avoid?

Thanks to commenter Amine Wifi for suggesting this topic for a lesson 🙂

Let’s go!

1.The “standard” use of “a kind of”

In formal English, “kind of” means “one category of,” or “one example of” a given category. It’s the most formal, “correct” use of the expression.

For example, you can say:

The bald eagle is a kind of bird.

Which means, there’s a category we call “bald eagle,” with many individual eagles in it, and all bald eagles belong to the “bird” category, even though some other birds are not bald eagle.

Another example: An iPhone is a kind of smartphone.

In both examples, the sentence is still true if you take out the expression “kind of” altogether: “The bald eagle is (a) bird”, “Squares are rectangle.”

Of course, you can also have more than one “kind,” for example:
We sell two kinds of products: audiobooks and mattresses. 

And even all the kinds!
I like to talk to people from all kinds of background.

 2) Colloquial use

The “colloquial” use is much more common in everyday American English. We use “Kind of” to mean “somewhat” or “at least a bit true.” In spoken language, it becomes “Kinda.”

It’s a way to sound less affirmative about something, than a simple “Yes” or an “absolutely.”

So you can use it to simply answer a question, for example:
– Do you know Terry?
– Kind of. We met once in a seminar. 

Or you can use it as an adverb, before a verb, to soften it. As in:
– I kinda feel like something’s missing.   
– I kinda like our situation. It’s not great, but we have a lot of potential to go further. 

You can also use it before the adverb “like.” It’s an expression that’s becoming popular in spoken American English: “it’s kind of like” / “kinda like.”
It’s means “a little bit like”, “it somewhat seems like…”
It helps make a comparison without being too strict on the details. 

As in: This new software is kind of like the older one, except it doesn’t crash as often. 

It can also describe a fleeting, unstable feeling. For example:
We were kinda like OK, but these bad results are really hurting us now. 

3) Alternatives and synonyms

Now you know how to use “kind of.” However, there’s still something that might confuse you: in English, “kind” is also an adjective. It means “nice, generous.”

As in:
Thank you, you’re very kind. 

Finally, if you feel like you’re using “kind of” too much, you can choose an alternative instead: “Sort of”, which is used in the same way as “kind of”. The spoken, colloquial version of it is “Sorta.”

For example:
– The eagle is a sort of bird.
– I sort of like him.
– We’re sorta OK. 

So, to recap:
– “A kind of” means “ a specific category of”
– “Kind of” also means “somewhat” or “mostly”.
“Kinda” is the colloquial, spoken version of “Kind of”
– The adjective “kind” means “nice”
– “Sort of” can be used as an alternative to “kind of”.

And now you’re done! But be sure to watch the video for the lesson!

Now, tell me…
Can you write down a sentence that uses “kind of”?
Write it down in the comments! It’s  a great way to practice, and share with the world!

If you’re a busy professional who needs to level up your fluency, but you find it difficult to do alone, let me help you, with Master Real American English.

It’s a 3 to 6 month coaching program in which my team and I empower you to express yourself fluently and naturally, so that people focus on your professional skills & expertise, not on your level of English.

For more information, go to this page where you can apply to join this program today.

Thank you for learning with Speak English with Christina, and I’ll see you next time!

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