What is the best translation for this?

What kind or What type? I would use what type more commonly than what kind. I know we can use both but is there a context that defines each usage when it comes to translating it to "Que tipo".

As in, can type and kind be used for the word "tipo" interchangeably? Similar to show we use it in English?

What type of model are you looking for? = "Que tipo" de modelo você está procurando?

What kind of model are you looking for? = "Que tipo" de modelo você está procurado?

  • Que saiba eu, não há diferença no inglês (sou falante nativo). Se ela existesse, seria sem dúvida parte dum idioleto. São tão intercambiáveis quanto «que classe...?» e «que tipo...?» no português: se houver razão por preferir uma ou outra, é meramente essa, uma preferência (quer por país, que por sonido, etc), e qualquer diferença percebida seria forzada. Jan 16, 2017 at 4:03
  • Thanks. In English "type" and "kind" can and cannot be used interchangeably depending on its context. Ex: What is your blood group type? Is correct. Whereas What is your blood group kind? does not make sense since there are many blood types but only one kind of human blood. Please be kind to you brother. Can't be said using the word type. Just a few examples but my concern is towards Portuguese. Thanks for the input.
    – Hugo
    Jan 16, 2017 at 15:33
  • Be kind to your brother is not a counter example: kind is being used as a verb. Blood type in English is now pretty much a single unit, note the question "What blood type is he?" that can not be asked with others: "What height type is he?". And yet, both the questions "What kind of blood does he have?" and "What type of blood does he have?" are perfectly valid, as would be "What sort of blood does he have?". As I said, any distinction that exists in English is more idiolect/dialect/historical accident than some fundamental semantic difference. Jan 16, 2017 at 15:46
  • See dictionary.cambridge.org/us/grammar/british-grammar/… quickanddirtytips.com/education/grammar/sort-kind-or-type . The only time they aren't interchangeable is when usage has come (generally in technical terms) to make one of the three exclusively correct within a given set phrase, such as in "blood type" Jan 16, 2017 at 15:56
  • Type refers to a broader group , whereas kind implies a more specific category in a generalized group. That's how most people use it even if some use both ways. I am only trying to see which one would best match that Portuguese sentence. If you are saying that either would fit its usage than thanks. I probably took it the other way around and started questioning the English usage. My mistake. Thanks for the help!
    – Hugo
    Jan 16, 2017 at 16:19

1 Answer 1


I think the real question is, in this context, what is the difference between the words "what kind" and "what type" in English?

When learning portuguese, or indeed any other language, it's best to avoid strictly trying to look for word to word correlations with your own language, and best to try and work out the fundamental meanings the new words you encounter. If you don't take off the "training wheels" of literal translation wherever you can, you'll find not only that you are scrabbling to find specific words that don't exist or aren't commonly used in the second language, but also that you miss the subtleties of words in the new language because you rigidly associate them with words in your home language which don't exactly fit.

For example, think of some of the adjectives that are associated with a large size in English. Great, large, grand, huge, mammoth all describe size, but also have their own feeling and subtext in and of themselves. You've also got big, gigantic, enormous, stupendous etc. etc. etc.

Would you expect another language to have all of these exact words? Of course not. Similarly, another language will have its own set of words that express size with their own connotations, which don't translate exactly to English. If you still always try and think in your own english "size" words, not only feel restricted when you can't find the word you want in your new language, you'll miss out on all the great ways that language has of its own to describe size.

This applies to all concepts, the more abstract the greater the effect. Generally a chair is a chair, the sky is the sky and an apple is an apple wherever you are (but then again, "limão" means both lemon and lime in Portuguese, so not necessarily.)

When it comes to words for nebulous abstract concepts or qualities that exist on a spectrum for example, it would be ludicrous to expect 2 languages to exactly correspond.

In the example you gave, the distinction is so small, that it would be very surprising indeed if another language in the whole world had 2 words that correspond exactly to the specific division of "kind" and "type."

Take the following examples:

fair and just

intelligent, clever and smart

rich, affluent, wealthy and well-off

You shouldn't try and find an exact translation for each word, but get an appreciation of which words in Portuguese exist that cover those concepts, and how do they differ from each other.

This is one of the challenges but also one of the greatest joys of learning another language, you are learning a new way to express yourself!

Translation is of course absolutely useful to get you up and running, and to give you a pretty good idea of what most words mostly mean, but as you expand your vocabulary you'll begin to pick up the "feeling" of words from how you hear them used in conversation and in writing. And occasionally you'll translate something from an English word which you never even considered actually means two different things, and get blank faces. But that's part of the fun too, you learn a lot about the unquestioned assumptions present in your own language when you begin to learn another!


With regards to the Portuguese in this example, "tipo" is a very general word, meaning something like "type" "kind" or "sort". What kind of type (or what type of kind) you're talking about depends on context, and can be elaborated where necessary to disambiguate. In certain contexts you just "know" what type of category you're distinguishing. If I said "Em qual tipo de casa você mora" you wouldn't answer "azul", despite the fact colours of houses are technically "types" of houses.

In my experience, when used in a question where what kind/type of kind/type isn't so clear, often people list examples, for example.

"Qual tipo de carro você procura, hatch, sedã...?"

There is always the option of using more specific vocabulary.

"Em quais modelos/marques de carros voce tem interesse?"

As to the question of whether "tipo de carro" refers implicitly to type in the way of sedan, SUV etc... I'm not a native speaker (and indeed have probably made mistakes already in this answer) and so wouldn't feel 100% confident in answering, however I can tell you that I have definitely heard it in that context.

However, if someone answered a question about "tipo de carro" with a badge name or model I also wouldn't be surprised. And to be honest, in English too, if I say "what type of car do you have" I think "an SUV", "a ford" and "an impala" are all valid answers, depending on context.

If what you want to know is whether "tipo" in the context of cars refers to model, badge, body type, or all of the above, I would suggest posting a separate question asking that :)

I hope this has been somewhat helpful anyway.

  • Thanks! I elaborated my question a bit more to give some clarity on my concern towards Portuguese.
    – Hugo
    Jan 16, 2017 at 16:26
  • @Hugo I think your question is less clear now than it was, before it was based on an assumption with translation works which I hope I addressed helpfully in this answer, but now you've edited your question to remove this assumption, it isn't really clear what you're asking
    – Some_Guy
    Jan 16, 2017 at 16:59
  • It's almost like you're saying "kind and type mean the same thing as each other in English. In Portuguese then, does tipo mean the same thing as itself?" The other part of your question "is there a context defining when to translate 'tipo' as 'kind' and when to translate it as 'type' " is not so much about Portuguese but about english. You're essentially saying "when do you use the word "type" and when do you use the word "kind" in English"
    – Some_Guy
    Jan 16, 2017 at 17:04
  • @Hugo I'm not trying to be dismissive, many natural assumptions about how languages work from people raised with 1 language turn out to be incorrect, and asking a question based on these assumptions is absolutely appropriate for the site! But sometimes, as a novice language learner, the answer will be (sometimes a little frustratingly) that you're asking the wrong question. I encounter this with my Brazilian students learning English all the time :)
    – Some_Guy
    Jan 16, 2017 at 17:07
  • if you want to continue this in chat, please message me :) chat.stackexchange.com/rooms/51889/…
    – Some_Guy
    Jan 16, 2017 at 17:26

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