"Cats are of three types"


Suppose there are three types of cats:

Cats are of three types.

Is this good English? The to be of ... types structure could be found on google though.


Posted 2014-05-31T04:44:12.440

Reputation: 7 727



The structure 'to be...of types' is absolutely fine.

From the Guardian

North of the border people who vote Sinn Féin are of two types. There are those who supported the IRA and believe the campaign was a good thing ... Then there are republican critics of Adams, who accuse him of selling out

From the Business Standard

Private schools are of two types: those that are aided by the government and those that are not.

Maulik V

Posted 2014-05-31T04:44:12.440

Reputation: 66 188


It's not ungrammatical, but that doesn't mean there couldn't be a better way to say it. The best wording often depends on context.

If this was the opening sentence on a piece about cats, I might recommend this form:

There are three types of cats: pedigree, cross-breed and non-pedigree.

However, if the sentence was buried more deeply in a paragraph, I might like your wording better:

Of the many household pets a family may own, two of the most common are dogs and cats. Cats are of three types: pedigree, cross-breed and non-pedigree.

In that passage, I think the rewording helps the two sentences flow together in a natural way.

I'm not aware of any hard-and-fast rule that prescribes when one form should be used instead of the other. However, in a question that asks, "Is this good English?" – without much other context – the answer could well be that sometimes it's excellent English, and sometimes it's not.

Incidentally, I did an Ngram search, and looked through some of the results. Indeed, it wasn't hard to find examples where the "are of n types" usages followed the form I alluded to, (that is, where "are of n types" follows a sentence where the word was mentioned previously):

The inflectional paradigm consists of the process of reduplication affecting the theme and the affixes. These affixes are of two types: categorial affixes and incorporated forms.

Subjective ultimates are the consciousnesses realizing emptiness and objecive ultimates are the objects of those consciousnesses. Subjective ultimates are of two types, actual and concordant.

Nor was it hard to find "There are n types" passages that were starting a new section of a book:

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Once again, I'm not saying one form couldn't be used in place of other. I'm merely pointing out that context might influence a preferred wording. The O.P. didn't ask if one particular wording was "ungrammatical", but asked whether it was "good English."


Posted 2014-05-31T04:44:12.440

Reputation: 108 123