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I have a question about the following text:

Last week Alex Knapp at Forbes published an article criticizing my Nikola Tesla comic. I don't normally respond to these kinds of thing, but since it's' Forbes I figured a proper response was in order.

I would rather say "this kind of things" rather than the version in the text above.

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This is singular, so thing must be singular too. –  Matt Эллен May 22 '12 at 14:38
    
See this related question: can what kind be plural? –  Peter Shor May 22 '12 at 14:40
    
@Matt: Surely it's "this" and "kind" that need to agree in number, so both options are correct in that sense. My choice of phrase would be "this kind of thing", but there may have been several aspects of the referred article that are being responded to, so "these kinds of things" might be more appropriate. –  DavidR May 22 '12 at 14:49
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Yes, maybe this question should be about this kind of thing vs. these kinds of things. The two phrases in the question header ("This kind of things" vs "These kinds of thing") both sound awkward to me. –  J.R. May 22 '12 at 14:52
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@DavidR: "these kind of things" is actually nearly as common as "these kinds of things". See this Ngram. –  Peter Shor May 22 '12 at 16:37

3 Answers 3

up vote 3 down vote accepted

Kind(s) of (like sort of, breed of, manner of, variety of, and so on) is slippery. It is usually interpreted as referring to the concept of something: uncountable, and taking a singular object. On the other hand, it can also refer to a set of them— or to a set of concepts— and the object would thus plural.

I would expect to see

this kind of dog = one sub-type of the type of animal known as "dog"

these kinds of dog = multiple sub-types of the type of animal known as "dog"

these kinds of dogs = multiple sub-types of the multiple types of animal known as "dog"

and not so much

this kind of dogs

but I cannot ascribe this to any particular grammatical rule, only familiarity (in American English) and style. After all, in informal conversation we could ask

What kind of books do you like?

and expect a plural answer, as if you had asked

What kinds of book do you like?

which would sound stilted unless you were trying to make small talk with a librarian or bookbinder about classifications of books.

We also find similar constructions in more formal or archaic English, e.g.

uncommon is that sort of men that say in their heart, "There is no God." (tr. from St. Augustine of Hippo)

As an aside, I love TheOatmeal, but do not demand precise use of language from web comics.

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Hahaha choster ::- ). Yeah, I love TheOatmeal too! But he was bashing on an article wrote by the Forbes guy, and at one point he pointed out a mistake in the Forbes article. It was rather ironic that TheOatmeal's author made a mistake of his own. Not that I ever commented against it though, I completely agree with TheOatmeal's piece ::- ). –  Axonn May 31 '12 at 10:29

It should have been "These kind of things."

These refers to the plural in things, not to kind. Example: kind could be gossip; yet, one can gossip person to person, publish in the newspaper, on TV and…! But, it is still gossip.

Take kind out: these things, or, these things are kind of gossip, and the same as badmouthing.

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Why should it have been "these kind of things"? There's only one thing that he's talking about (the article in Forbes), so I think "this kind of thing" makes the most sense here. –  Peter Shor May 27 '12 at 9:31
    
@PeterShor There’s a long history of using these sort of things. :) In King Lear, Shakespeare wrote “These kind of knaves I know.” See this posting for other references. Despite the literary record, the New York Times inveighs against it here‌​. –  tchrist Aug 12 '13 at 4:21

Please accept my apologies (or my apology, as the case may be :-)) for arriving so late: I've only just bumped into this grammatical situation, I did a search and none of the answers seen here really works for me.

My view is that, no matter how "jarring" the mixing of numbers may sound, in this case - or, should I say this kind of sentences? - what dictates the grammatical structure should be the meaning of the noun used as the object.

So, "kind" is a set and, of course, a set is made of many similar things: by definition, it cannot possibly be made of only one thing, no matter how similar the units are to one another. As often encountered in mathematical discussions, one speaks of a "set of numbers" and not of a "set of number"; a "set of functions" and not of a "set of function" and so on. You may give this set a name such as, animal, plant, mineral. Then, if using the name, it would make sense referring to it in the singular (e.g. what kind of animal is it?). Therefore, if the author is talking about just a type of objections received from Forbes, then he is perfectly entitled to write "this kind of things" whereas, more than one type (i.e. a grammatical objection, an objection about design and an objection about content) would suggest the use of the form "these kinds of things".

For those who advocate usage as the guiding principle, then Prof. Google tells us that, on this date, people use this expression as follows:

  1. this kind of thing: 136,000,000 hits
  2. these kinds of things: 24,900,000
  3. this kind of things: 10,900,000
  4. these kinds of thing: 1,960,000

So, the most used, or most popular, is not necessarily the most logical, but wins the day. Which just goes to show that the majority of people are irrational! :-)

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protected by RegDwigнt Oct 7 '13 at 8:40

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