KINDS / TYPES / SORTS / VARIETIES
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:
Ex: 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.
VARIOUS / DIFFERENT / MANY / ALL - KINDS / TYPES / SORTS / VARIETIES
These nouns collocate readily with different, various and many as well as with all:
Ex: There are various kinds / types / sorts / varieties of jazz.
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:
Ex: What sort of (a) / kind of (a) / type of (a) dance is that?
Well, it’s a sort of jig or reel, danced to very fast time. I don’t know exactly what it is because there are several types of jigs – single jigs, double jigs, slip jigs and hop jigs.
Note: When the indefinite article is retained, it sometimes has a derogatory meaning:
Ex: What kind of a DVD player is that? You don’t 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:
Ex: Why don’t you like this kind of music?
Well, it’s sort of loud and tuneless.