Question Tags – General English Study Material
They are mainly used in speech when we want to:
- confirm that something is true or not, or
- to encourage a reply from the person we are speaking to.
Question tags are formed with the auxiliary or modal verb from the statement and the appropriate subject.
A positive statement is followed by a negative question tag.
- Jack is from Spain, isn’t he?
- Mary can speak English, can’t she?
A negative statement is followed by a positive question tag.
- They aren’t funny, are they?
- He shouldn’t say things like that, should he?
When the verb in the main sentence is in the present simple we form the question tag with do / does.
- You play the guitar, don’t you?
- Alison likes tennis, doesn’t she?
If the verb is in the past simple we use did.
- They went to the cinema, didn’t they?
- She studied in New Zealand, didn’t she?
When the statement contains a word with a negative meaning, the question tag needs to be positive
- He hardly ever speaks, does he?
- They rarely eat in restaurants, do they?
Some verbs / expressions have different question tags. For example:
I am – I am attractive, aren’t I?
Positive imperative – Stop daydreaming, will / won’t you?
Negative imperative – Don’t stop singing, will you?
Let’s – Let’s go to the beach, shall we?
Have got (possession) – He has got a car, hasn’t he?
There is / are – There aren’t any spiders in the bedroom, are there?
This / that is – This is Paul’s pen, isn’t it?
When we are sure of the answer and we are simply encouraging a response, the intonation in the question tag goes down:
- This is your car, isn’t it?
(Your voice goes down when you say isn’t it.)
When we are not sure and want to check information, the intonation in the question tag goes up:
- He is from France, isn’t he?
(Your voice goes up when you say isn’t he.)
- Twelve Rules for Tag Questions
|1. After “let’s”, the tag begins with “shall”.||Let’s invite the neighbours over for dinner on the weekend, shall we?|
|2. Use “aren’t I” in tags to mean “I am not”.||I’m on time, aren’t I? (correct)
I’m on time, am’t I? (incorrect)
|3. Use “won’t” for polite request tags.||You’ll bring the other things, won’t you?|
|4. Use “will” or “would” with imperative sentences (commands).||Wait here until I return, will you?
Wait here until I return, would you?
|5. Use “mustn’t” with the modal “must”.||This must be the address, mustn’t it?|
|6. Two endings are possible when “have” is the main verb of the sentence.||You have enough money, haven’t you? (British English)
You have enough money, don’t you? (North American English)
|7. Use pronouns for people, not proper names, in question tags.||Paul is a good tennis player, isn’t he?
Betty has a good job, hasn’t she?
|8. Use “it” in a question tag when the sentence includes the words “this” or “that”.||This is your pen, isn’t it?|
|9. Use “they” in a question tag when the sentence includes “these” or “those”.||Those are your sandals, aren’t they?|
|10. Use “there” in a question tag when the sentences includes “there + a form of be”.||There is a lot of work to do today, isn’t there?|
|11. Use “they” in a question tag when the sentence includes indefinite pronouns
(nobody, no one, someone, somebody, everyone, everybody).
|Everyone is here now, aren’t they?
Nobody has eaten yet, have they?
|12. Use “didn’t” in a question tag when the sentence includes the verb “used to”.||You used to go skating very often, didn’t you?”|