Tag Questions

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 are they formed?

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
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 them?

Tag questions are used to verify or check information that we think is true or to check information that we aren't sure is true. 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.

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