Lindsay McMahon
"The English Adventurer"

What things do you kind of look for when searching for an apartment?

Have you heard people use smaller words such as “of” or “kind” in English?

This can be one of those aspects of conversation that is rather difficult because it’s based on such subtle differences.

Today we’re going to look at these tiny words that if used properly can make a big difference–and you will learn how to make each one work.

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We have a letter from a listener about the tiny words or nuances of English that can be subtle but hard to understand at times.

Hello Lindsay ,

I’m Chuck writing over here from Taiwan. It’s been three and half years of listening to All Ears English, and the time has just flown by with me learning so much! I had a question come up that I am hoping you can help me to answer.

When reading the transcript for episode 1380, you were giving a thorough answer as to Aubrey’s curiosity about what the key pieces of your goal are to expand All Ears English. In the end, you tried to summarize it and said “Those are kind of the three things that I look for or three of the things….”

I’m wondering what’s the nuanced difference between the three things and three of the things are–if there is a difference. I’m also wondering when to use one in a more distinct way over the other in certain situations.

P.S. I know the vital piece affecting the meaning of the sentence is “of” and that is the puzzle I’ve been confused about and trying to figure out for awhile. I love being a part of the AEE community, and I look forward to your answer on this. I learn so much all the time!

Thank you for your help,


Understanding Some Background

This is an excellent question as the differences here may seem rather minor.

We did an episode in the past that may be quite useful in this area, and you will want to check it out.

How To Use “Kind of,”” Sort of,” and “Pretty much” in English

We go over a bit of this concept in this episode, so it’s definitely worth a listen to start with.

So in the question the example that we’re looking at is ” Those are kind of the three things that I look for or three of the things.”

We’re going to break this down so that you can understand how this works and how to use this sort of thing in conversation.

It may sound confusing at first, but you will quickly come to see that it’s a really important concept and something you will use in conversation often.

Breaking This Down

So the question in the letter really offers a great example for you to break down and understand.

Let’s take a look at this piece by piece so that you can really start to see and understand how this works.

So let’s look at a piece of this to start with is Of 1 –“Those are kind of the three things that I look for.”

In this piece, here kind of means about, but it’s really being a little general.

An example of this you could use is “I kind of want a brownie right now.”

Another example of this could be “This is kind of what I was looking for!”

You could also say “These chairs are kind of like what I just bought.”

The next piece we’ll look at is Of 2–“or three OF the things.”

In this example, of is used to signify that these three things are a piece of what Aubrey looks for

An example of this could be “One of the best parts of living in NY is being near so many restaurants.”

Another way to use this is “Two of my favorite books are by that author!”

A final example could be “Three of my best friends live in Indiana.”

So kind of is more like a general phrase, where of in these other contexts is showing there are more.

If you can break it down and think of it in this way, then you will know exactly how to use this in the best way possible.

Other Uses For This

Let’s go over some other uses so that you can start to see and understand how this works.

This may seem difficult because the differences are so subtle, but it’s not as hard as you think when you see it at work.

Kind of: This use applies when someone asks you a question of some sort.

A: “Do you want to go to the beach?”

B: “Kind of…”

It implies that you sort of want to do it but it’s not a full commitment, or at least not an enthusiastic one.

Kinds of/kind of: Here this means types or it speaks to the fact that there are different options.

You could say “We ordered three kinds of pizza for the party.”

Another good example would be “I love all kinds of pie, but my favorite kind of pie is apple pie.”

Of: You can use this in a variety of different ways and it can work much the same too.

You can use it to show a fraction such as “Three of the four students did the homework.”

You can also use it to show distinction such as “Of all the friends I have, you are the most honest.”

You will find that this one little subtle word choice can make a huge difference if used the right way.

Things To Consider In Using These Tiny Words

In general, it’s easy to get intimidated by the TINY words in English.

The truth is that you are more dealing with grammar and they can be tricky.

Don’t let this intimidate you, but rather try to keep a few things in mind to make the right choice.

  1. Context: What is the context for which you are using? How is it being used? What is the nature of the conversation overall?
  2. Chunks: Think of things such as “kind of” or “sort of” here. Think of which one would be useful and which one fits the situation in terms of chunks.
  3. Listen: Ask yourself how do others use it? Take the time to really listen to people using this in conversation. Though it’s a subtle thing, you can really pick up a lot if you listen carefully.
  4. Practice: Try it out for yourself! This is the best way to learn because then you can see how it works and how it feels in your conversations. It can be a great way to master this concept.

These can help you to make the right decision for what should be used in conversation, and can ensure that you have the right approach.


The tiny word “of” can be confusing, but now you can see how to use it naturally.

We gave you some answers today and ways to think about it the next time.

You want to be sure to use this word in a specific way.

Look for the subtle differences and see how this works in each situation–this can be a great part of conversation once you get the hang of it.

If you have any questions, please leave them below in the comments section.

We’ll get back to you as soon as we can.

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