Tag Questions


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?

Sentence Pattern

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

Rule Example
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.