What Kind of Vs What Kinds of: Differences + Examples [2024]

In the realm of English grammar, subtle distinctions can often lead to significant differences in meaning and usage. One such distinction lies between the phrases “what kind of” and “what kinds of.” While these phrases may seem interchangeable at first glance, they serve different grammatical functions and are used in distinct contexts. This comprehensive guide will explore the nuances between these phrases, providing clear explanations, examples, and practical tips for their correct usage in 2024.

Understanding the Basics

Defining “Kind” and “Kinds”

Before delving into the differences between “what kind of” and “what kinds of,” it’s essential to understand the foundation of these phrases: the words “kind” and “kinds.”

“Kind” is a singular noun referring to a particular type or sort of something. For example:

  • What kind of car do you drive?
  • This kind of behavior is unacceptable.

“Kinds” is the plural form, used when referring to multiple types or varieties. For instance:

  • There are many kinds of fruit in this market.
  • What kinds of music do you enjoy listening to?

Grammatical Function

Both “what kind of” and “what kinds of” function as interrogative phrases used to inquire about the nature or type of something. However, their usage depends on whether the subject in question is singular or plural.

When to Use “What Kind of”

“What kind of” is used when inquiring about a singular noun or a non-count noun. It’s appropriate when you’re asking about a specific type or category of something.


  1. What kind of book are you reading?
  2. What kind of music do you prefer?
  3. What kind of experience is required for this job?

Grammatical Structure

The typical structure for using “what kind of” is:

What kind of + singular noun + verb (conjugated appropriately)

For example:

  • What kind of car does she drive?
  • What kind of atmosphere are you trying to create?

Common Contexts

“What kind of” is frequently used in:

  • Personal preferences: What kind of food do you like?
  • Descriptions: What kind of person is your new neighbor?
  • Inquiries about specifics: What kind of software does this computer use?

When to Use “What Kinds of”

“What kinds of” is used when inquiring about multiple types or varieties of something. It’s appropriate when the subject is plural or when you expect multiple answers.


  1. What kinds of books do you enjoy reading?
  2. What kinds of challenges do small businesses face?
  3. What kinds of animals live in this ecosystem?

Grammatical Structure

The typical structure for using “what kinds of” is:

What kinds of + plural noun + verb (conjugated appropriately)

For example:

  • What kinds of sports do you play?
  • What kinds of vegetables grow well in this climate?

Common Contexts

“What kinds of” is often used in:

  • Surveys and research: What kinds of products do you use daily?
  • Educational settings: What kinds of resources are available to students?
  • Business analysis: What kinds of strategies have been successful in this market?

Key Differences and Considerations

Singular vs. Plural

The primary difference between “what kind of” and “what kinds of” lies in their singular and plural usage:

  • “What kind of” is used with singular nouns or non-count nouns.
  • “What kinds of” is used with plural nouns.

Expectation of Answer

The choice between these phrases can also depend on the expected answer:

  • “What kind of” typically expects a single type or category as an answer.
  • “What kinds of” anticipates multiple types or categories in response.

Non-Count Nouns

With non-count nouns, “what kind of” is generally used, even when multiple varieties might exist:

  • What kind of music do you like? (Not “What kinds of music”)
  • What kind of information do you need? (Not “What kinds of information”)

Formal vs. Informal Usage

In formal writing and speech, adhering to the singular/plural distinction is important. However, in casual conversation, people might use these phrases interchangeably, although this is not grammatically correct. For more casual language tips, you might wonder, “Is It Correct to Say ‘How Is It Going?'”

Common Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Mistake 1: Using “Kinds of” with Singular Nouns

Incorrect: What kinds of car do you drive? Correct: What kind of car do you drive?

Mistake 2: Using “Kind of” with Clearly Plural Subjects

Incorrect: What kind of books are on your shelf? Correct: What kinds of books are on your shelf?

Mistake 3: Confusion with Non-Count Nouns

Remember that non-count nouns typically use “what kind of,” even if multiple varieties exist.

Incorrect: What kinds of furniture do you have? Correct: What kind of furniture do you have?

Mistake 4: Inconsistent Verb Agreement

Ensure that the verb agrees with the subject, not with “kind” or “kinds.”

Incorrect: What kind of flowers is in the garden? Correct: What kind of flowers are in the garden?

Practical Applications and Examples

In Academic Writing

  • “What kind of methodology was used in this study?”
  • “What kinds of variables were considered in the experiment?”

In Business Communication

  • “What kind of budget are we working with for this project?”
  • “What kinds of skills are you looking for in potential candidates?”

In Everyday Conversations

  • “What kind of movie do you want to watch tonight?”
  • “What kinds of activities do you enjoy on weekends?”

FAQs About “What Kind of” vs “What Kinds of”

Can “what kind of” ever be used with plural nouns?

While “what kind of” is typically used with singular nouns, there are instances where it can be used with plural nouns, especially when referring to a collective group or category. For example, “What kind of shoes are best for running?” Here, although “shoes” is plural, we’re asking about a single type or category of shoes.

Is it ever acceptable to use “what kinds of” with singular nouns?

No, it is not grammatically correct to use “what kinds of” with singular nouns. If you’re referring to a single item or category, always use “what kind of.”

How do I decide between “what kind of” and “what kinds of” for abstract concepts?

For abstract concepts, consider whether you’re asking about a single type or multiple varieties. For instance, use “What kind of support do you need?” if you’re asking about support in general, but “What kinds of support systems are available?” if you’re inquiring about multiple specific support systems.

Are there any exceptions to these rules in formal writing?

In formal writing, it’s best to adhere to the grammatical rules. However, in certain stylistic or rhetorical contexts, writers might occasionally bend these rules for effect. Always prioritize clarity and consider your audience when making such decisions.

How has the usage of these phrases evolved in recent years?

While the fundamental rules remain the same, there’s been a trend towards more flexibility in casual speech and informal writing. However, in professional and academic contexts, the distinction between “what kind of” and “what kinds of” is still observed and expected.


Understanding the difference between “what kind of” and “what kinds of” is crucial for precise and effective communication in English. By grasping the singular versus plural usage, considering the context, and being mindful of common mistakes, you can enhance your language skills and convey your thoughts more accurately. For a more in-depth exploration of English grammar topics, visit Englishrecaps.com.

Remember that language is dynamic, and while rules provide a framework, context and clarity should always be your guiding principles. Whether you’re writing an academic paper, crafting a business email, or engaging in casual conversation, applying these distinctions correctly will elevate your English proficiency and ensure your message is clearly understood.

As we move through 2024 and beyond, the ability to navigate these subtle grammatical nuances will continue to be valuable in an increasingly global and communication-driven world. By mastering these phrases, you’re not just improving your grammar; you’re enhancing your ability to express ideas, ask questions, and engage in meaningful dialogue across various personal and professional settings.

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