A tag question is a small question that is attached , or "tagged", to the end of a sentence. Rather than repeat the main verb, a form of "be" or other auxiliary verb or modal is used in the tag. Below are a few examples.
You came by train, didn’t you?
It’s very windy today, isn’t it?
You can meet me at the station, can’t you?
You couldn’t give me a ride, could you?
If the sentence is negative, the tag is usually positive, as in the example below.
You didn’t tell him, did you?
Note: Sentences with negative words are considered to be negative. Therefore, they require positive tag question endings, as in these examples:
He never drinks alcohol, does he?
Nobody left a message, did they?
If the sentence is positive, the tag is usually negative, as in the next example.
You told him, didn’t you?
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?”|
Using Tag Questions
Tag questions are used to ask for agreement or to ask for things, favours, or new information. To determine which, listen to the speaker's tone. A rising tone at the end of a tag question indicates that it is a real question. The speaker wants to know something or wants someone to do something. Falling tone however, means that the speaker is looking for agreement.
|Rising tone -
asking for a favour
|You couldn't lend me some money, could you?|
|Rising tone –
asking for information
|You don't happen to know if the No. 50 bus has already passed here, do you?|
|Falling tone -
asking for agreement
|The boss wasn't in a good mood today, was he?
That dress looks great on her, doesn't it?
Note: We usually use a negative sentence with a positive tag to request things or information, as in the preceding examples.
When you are sure that you understand the lesson, you can continue with the exercises.