Tag Questions

Tag questions

 Tag question 


 A question tag or tag question is a grammatical structure in which a declarative statement or animperative is turned into a question by adding an interrogative fragment (the "tag").

 The term "question tag" is generally preferred by British grammarians, while their American counterparts prefer "tag question".

 In most languages, tag questions are more common in colloquial spoken usage than in formal written usage.

  They can be an indicator of politenessemphasis, or irony. They may suggest confidence or lack of confidence; they may be confrontational or tentative. 

 English tag questions, when they have the grammatical form of a question, are atypically complex, because they vary according to four factors:

1.the choice of auxiliary
2.the negation
3.the intonation pattern
4.the emphasis.

 A question added to a declarative sentence, usually at the end, to engage the listener, verify that something has been understood, or confirm that an action has occurred.

Form & Usage

positive statement is followed by a negative tag.
negative statement is followed by a positive tag.

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

2. Treat any statements with negative adverbs, quantifiers with negative meaning and pronouns with negative meanings like negative statements.


・Nobody knows, do they?
・Nothing came in the post, did it?
・Nothing is free these days, is it?
・None would survive the next world war, would they?
・Few men have the proper values to live through this age, do they?
・Little money was invested in this scheme, was it?
・They seldom come, do they?
・He is never available, is he?

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


・He's an officer, isn't he?
・He's an officer, wasn't he?
・He's been an officer, hasn't he?
・He'd been an officer, hadn't he?
・He does it better, doesn't he?
・He's doing it better, isn't he?
・He's done it better, hasn't he?
・He's been doing it better, hasn't he?
・He did it better, didn't he?
・He's doing it better, wasn't he?
・He'd done it better, hadn't he?
・He'd been doing it better, hadn't he?
・He's done it better, isn't he?
・He's done it better, wasn't he?
・He's being done it better, isn't he?
・He's being done it better, wasn't he?

4. If a modal (can, could, will, should, etc.) is used in the statement, then the same modal is used in the tag part.


・He can read this book, can't he?
・He could read this book, couldn't he?
・He will read this book, won't he?
・He would read this book, wouldn't he?
・He shall read this book, shan't he?
・He should read this book, shouldn't he?
・He may read this book, mayn't he?
・He might read this book, mightn't he?
・He must read this book, mustn't he?

 The English tag question is made up of an auxiliary verb and a pronoun.

 The auxiliary has to agree with the tenseaspect and modality of the verb in the preceding sentence.

 If the verb is in the perfect tense, for example, the tag question uses has or have; if the verb is in apresent progressive form, the tag is formed with am, are, is; if the verb is in a tense which does notnormally use an auxiliary, like the present simple, the auxiliary is taken from the emphatic "do(does)" form; and if the sentence has a modal auxiliary, this is echoed in the tag:

 A special case occurs when the main verb is "to be" in a simple tense. Here the tag question repeats the main verb, not an auxiliary:


・This is a book, isn't it?
(Not doesn't it?, as the normal rules for present simple would suggest.)

 If the main verb is "to have", either solution is possible:


・He has a book, hasn't he?
・He has a book, doesn't he?


 English tag questions may contain a negation, but need not.

  When there is no special emphasis, the rule of thumb often applies that a positive sentence has anegative tag and ★vice versa:



The reverse of the previous statement, with the main items transposed. It derives from Latin, with the translation being 'the other way round' or 'the position being reversed', but is now fully absorbed into English.


・She is French, isn't she?
・She's not French, is she?

 These are sometimes called "balanced tag questions". However, it has been estimated that in normal conversation, as many as 40%-50% of tags break this rule.

 "Unbalanced tag questions" (positive to positive or negative to negative) may be used for ironic orconfrontational effects:

 Although the basic structure of tag questions is positive-negative or negative-positive, it is sometime possible to use a positive-positive or negative-negative structure.

  We use unbalanced tag questions to express interestsurpriseanger etc, and not to make real questions.

Do listen, will you?
・Oh, I'm lazy, am I?
・So you're having a baby, are you? That's wonderful!
・She wants to marry him, does she? Some chance!
・So you think that's amusing, do you? Think again.
・So you don't like my looks, don't you?
(Negative-negative tag questions usually sound rather hostile:)

・Jack: I refuse to spend Sunday at your mother's house!
 Jill: Oh you dodo you? We'll see about that!

・Jack: I just won't go back!
 Jill: Oh you won'twon't you?

Let's and Let

When you use the word "let's (let us)", the question tag at the end must be "shall+we?"


・Let's visit the Archeological Museum, shall we?

When you use the word "let", the question tag at the end must be "will/won't+you?"


・Come over for tea today, will you?
・Come over for tea today, won't you?

Imperative sentences

 Sometimes we use question tags with imperatives (invitations, orders), but the sentence remains an imperative and does not require a direct answer. 

 We use "won't" for invitations.

When the sentence is imperative, the question tag at the end must be "will/won't/would/can/can't/+you?"


・Come over for tea today, will you?
・Come over for tea today, won't you?
・Do try these lovely scones, will you?
・Do try these lovely scones, won't you?


Short observations

 When you are making short observations about something non-living, the question tag at the end must be "isn't/aren't+it?" 


・Nice day, isn't it? (It is a nice day,isn't it?)

 When you are making short observations about the something living, the question tag at the end must be "isn't/aren't+she/he/they?"


・Lovely girl, isn't she? (She is a lovely girl, isn't she?)

Stating intentions

When you wish to do something, the question tag at the end must be "may+I?"


・I wish to leave now, may I?


 English tag questions can have a rising➚➚➚ or a falling➘➘➘ intonation pattern.

  As a rule, the English rising pattern➚➚➚ is used when soliciting information or motivating an action, that is, when some sort of response is required.

  Since normal English yes/no questions have rising patterns (e.g. Are you coming?➚➚➚), these tags make a grammatical statement into a real question:


・You're coming, aren't you?➚➚➚
・Do listen, will you?➚➚➚
・Let's have a beer, shall we?➚➚➚

 The falling pattern➘➘➘ is used to underline a statement.

  The statement itself ends with a falling pattern➘➘➘, and the tag sounds like an echo, strengthening the pattern.

  Most English tag questions have this falling pattern.


・He doesn't know what he's doing➘➘➘, does he?➘➘➘
・This is really boring➘➘➘, isn't it?➘➘➘
・It's a beautiful view➘➘➘, isn't it?➘➘➘

Sometimes the rising tag goes with the positive to positive pattern to create a confrontational effect:


・He was the best in the class, was he?➚➚➚
(rising➚➚➚: the speaker is challenging this thesis, or perhaps expressing surprised interest)

・He was the best in the class, wasn't he?➘➘➘
(falling➘➘➘: the speaker holds this opinion)

・Be careful, will you?➚➚➚
(rising➚➚➚: expresses irritation)

・Take care, won't you?➘➘➘
(falling➘➘➘: expresses concern)

Sometimes the same words may have different patterns depending on the situation or implication.


・You don't remember my name, do you?➚➚➚
(rising: expresses surprise)

・You don't remember my name, do you?➘➘➘
(falling: expresses amusement or resignation)

・Your name's Mary, isn't it?➚➚➚
(rising: expresses uncertainty)

・Your name's Mary, isn't it?➘➘➘ 
(falling: expresses confidence)

On the other hand, the adverbial tag questions (alright? OK? etc.) are almost always found with rising patterns➚➚➚.

An occasional exception is surely.


 English tag questions are normally stressed on the verb, but the stress is on the pronoun if there is a change of person. 


・I don't like peas, do you?
・I like peas, don't you?

This is often a rising tag➚➚➚ (especially when the tag contains no negation), or the intonation pattern may be the typically English fall➘➘-rise➚➚. 

Variant forms

 There are a number of variant forms that exist in particular dialects of English. These are generallyinvariant, regardless of verb, person or negativity.

The tag right? is common in a number of dialects across the UK and US.

The tag eh? is of Scottish origin, and can be heard across much of Scotland, New Zealand, Canada and the North-Eastern United States. In Central Scotland (in and around Stirling and Falkirk), this exists in the form eh no? which is again invariant.

The tag "OK?" is used as a tag ending, the meaning is special.

It normally means something like 'I know you don't believe it, but (statement)':


・He's a nice person, OK?
(I know you don't believe it, but I think he's a nice person.)

・She doesn't like me, OK?
(I know you don't believe it, but she doesn't like me.)

・We remembered everything, OK?
(I know you don't believe it, but we remembered everything.)

・He did a good job when he fixed my car, OK?
(I know you don't believe it, but he did a good job when he fixed my car.)

The tag Huh? is another unusual tag ending. It's used in three different ways:

1.With normal intonation, "huh?" is used like "right?" or "correct?":


・He isn't here, huh?
(He isn't here, right / correct?)

・You come here often, huh?
(You come here often, right / correct?)

2."Huh?" is also frequently used in a sarcastic or challenging way.

  With this usage, the "challenged "information has very high pitch and both the"challenged" information and "huh?" are stressed: 


・He isn't hére, húh?
(You / someone said that he isn't here, but I don't believe it.)

・He's a níce guy, húh?
(You / someone said that he's a nice guy, but I don't believe it.)

・You understánd me, húh?
(You said that you understand me, but I don't believe you.)

3."Huh?" is also used alone (and not as a tag ending).
When used alone, "Huh?" is used in two ways:

a.With rising intonation➚➚➚, it shows surprise or shock:


A: Bob failed the test.
B: Huh? (Really? / That seems impossible!)

With rising intonation, "Huh?" can also mean 'I didn't hear you' or 'I didn't understand you: A: Ja nje znaju njich.
B: Huh? (What was that? / What did you say? / I didn't understand that.)

b.With falling intonation, it shows mild interest:


A: Bob failed the test.
B: Huh. (That's interesting. / I didn't know that.)

 When "OK?" and "huh?" are used like tag endings, they have rising intonation➚➚➚.

  When "Huh" is used alone, it can have either rising➚➚ or falling➘➘➘ intonation.
  The different intonations in this use of "Huh?" show different meanings or reactions.