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Grammar Books

What is a tag question?

A tag question is a short question added to the end of a positive or negative statement.

For example:-

He is,
isn't he?
He does,
doesn't he?
He will,
won't he?
He can,
can't he?

 

How do you form a tag question?

Normally a positive statement is followed by a negative tag, and a negative statement is followed by a positive tag.

For example:-

+ -
You're English,
aren't you?
- +
You're not German,
are you?

 

!The statement and the tag are always separated by a comma.

 

! Treat any statements with nothing, nobody etc like negative statements.

The verb in the statement should be the same tense as the verb in the tag.

For example:-

Present tense
| present tense
You are a good singer, aren't you?
Past tense
| past tense
You didn't go to work yesterday, did you?
Present perfect tense
| present perfect tense
You have been to London, haven't you?

 

If the verb used in the statement is an auxiliary verb, then the verb used in the tag must match it. If a modal (can, could, will, should, etc.) is used in the statement, then the same modal is used in the tag part. If the statement doesn't use an auxilliary verb, then the auxiliary do is used in the tag part.

For example:-

Auxiliary verb   !Note
She is from England, isn't she?  
They aren't very nice, are they?  
She doesn't like it here, does she?  
Modal verb    
You can sing, can't you?  
They shouldn't do that, should they?  
No auxiliary    
He eats meat, doesn't he? (He does eat meat...)
He had a bath, didn't he? (He did have a bath...)
Nothing happened, did it?

(Nothing did happen...)

 

Why do we use tag questions?

A good question. Why can't we just ask a normal question? The answer is you can, but you can use tag questions to verify or check information that you think is true, or to check information that you aren't sure about. 

I'm sorry to say that sometimes we just use them for effect, when we are trying to be sarcastic, or to make a strong point. So be sure to use them with care.

We show the meaning of the tag question through intonation.

If the tag is a real question it has a rising intonation.

For example:-

soundThe chairman's coming at 3.00, isn't he?

If the tag is not a real question it has a flat or falling intonation.

For example:-

soundIt's a nice day today, isn't it?

! It is possible for a positive statement to be followed by a positive tag for even more effect (sarcasm, anger, disbelief, shock, concern etc.).

For example:-

soundOh you will, will you?

soundYou think you're funny, do you?

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