Question Tags

Last Updated: June 10, 2024

Question Tags

A question tag is a short interrogative fragment added at the end of a declarative sentence to invite confirmation, clarify information, or stimulate interaction. Typically mirroring the auxiliary verb and subject of the main sentence, question tags turn statements into queries, prompting responses. For example, in the statement “It’s raining, isn’t it?”, “isn’t it?” is the question tag that seeks affirmation. This linguistic feature is commonly used in spoken English to ensure engagement and verify facts or opinions, subtly influencing the tone and formality of the conversation.

What are Question Tags?

Question tags are short phrases added to the end of a sentence to turn it into a question or to seek confirmation from the listener. They typically consist of an auxiliary verb followed by a pronoun, and they are used to engage the listener, confirm information, or express uncertainty. For example, in the sentence “You’re coming to the party, aren’t you?”, “aren’t you” is the question tag.

Forming and Using Question Tags in Sentences

Forming Question Tags:

  1. Auxiliary Verbs: Question tags often utilize auxiliary verbs from the main clause. For example:
    • He is coming, isn’t he?
    • She has finished, hasn’t she?
  2. Subject Pronouns: Match the subject pronoun in the question tag to the subject of the main clause. Examples include:
    • You like chocolate, don’t you?
    • They went to the party, didn’t they?
  3. Negative Forms: If the main clause is affirmative, the question tag should be negative, and vice versa:
    • You enjoyed the movie, didn’t you?
    • She didn’t go to school, did she?
  4. Modal Verbs: In sentences with modal auxiliary verbs, form the question tag using the modal verb:
    • You can swim, can’t you?
    • They should arrive soon, shouldn’t they?

Using Question Tags:

  1. Seeking Confirmation: Question tags are commonly used to seek confirmation or agreement from the listener:
    • The meeting starts at 10, doesn’t it?
    • You’ve met Tom before, haven’t you?
  2. Softening Statements: Adding a question tag can soften a statement, making it less assertive:
    • She’s a good singer, isn’t she?
    • We should leave now, shouldn’t we?
  3. Expressing Surprise or Interest: Question tags can convey surprise or interest in the listener’s response:
    • You’ve finished all the work, have you?
    • He’s still awake, isn’t he?
  4. Encouraging Conversation: Question tags can prompt a response or encourage further conversation:
    • Let’s go for a walk, shall we?
    • We could try the new restaurant, couldn’t we?

Verbs and Their Corresponding Question Tags

Verbs and Their Corresponding Question Tags

Verbs and their corresponding question tags play a crucial role in forming grammatically correct sentences and ensuring effective communication. Here are some common verbs and their associated question tags:

VerbQuestion Tag
Be (am/is/are)isn’t he/she/it?
Have (has/have)hasn’t/haven’t he/she/they?
Do (does/do)doesn’t/don’t he/she/they?
Modal Verbs (can, could, may, might, will, would, shall, should, must)can’t/couldn’t/may/might not/won’t/wouldn’t/shan’t/shouldn’t/mustn’t he/she/they?
Action Verbsdoesn’t/don’t he/she/they?
Phrasal Verbsdidn’t he/she/they?
Past Tense Verbsdidn’t he/she/they?
Present Continuous/Progressive Verbsisn’t/aren’t he/she/they?

Examples of Sentences with Question Tags

Question tags are a useful tool in English grammar, allowing speakers to engage with their listeners, seek confirmation, or soften statements. They consist of a statement followed by a short question designed to prompt a response or confirm information. Let’s explore some examples:

Positive Statements with Negative Question Tags

Positive statements with negative question tags are a common linguistic device used to engage listeners and prompt responses. Despite the affirmative nature of the statement, the addition of a negative question tag invites confirmation or agreement from the listener. This combination of positivity and negation adds a layer of conversational nuance, making the interaction more dynamic.

  1. You love chocolate cake, don’t you?
  2. She enjoys watching movies, doesn’t she?
  3. They finished their homework early, didn’t they?
  4. He’s a talented musician, isn’t he?
  5. We had a great time at the party, didn’t we?
  6. The weather is lovely today, isn’t it?
  7. Sarah completed the project on time, didn’t she?
  8. You’re going to the concert tonight, aren’t you?
  9. The children behaved well in class, didn’t they?
  10. Jenny passed her driving test, didn’t she?

Negative Statements with Positive Question Tags

Negative statements with positive question tags create an intriguing linguistic dynamic, where the speaker conveys a negative assertion but seeks affirmation or clarification through a positive question tag. This construction is particularly effective for eliciting a response or engaging the listener in conversation. Let’s delve into some examples:

  1. She doesn’t like spicy food, does she?
  2. They didn’t arrive on time, did they?
  3. He hasn’t finished his assignment yet, has he?
  4. You’re not afraid of heights, are you?
  5. We didn’t forget to buy groceries, did we?
  6. The team didn’t win the championship, did they?
  7. I haven’t seen that movie, have I?
  8. They don’t live in the city, do they?
  9. She isn’t feeling well today, is she?
  10. He didn’t miss the train, did he?

Question Tags Exercises

Exercise 1: Add the appropriate question tag to each statement.

  1. They are coming to the party, __________?
  2. She doesn’t like coffee, __________?
  3. He finished his homework, __________?
  4. We should leave now, __________?
  5. You’ve met Tom before, __________?
  6. She hasn’t seen the movie, __________?
  7. He won’t forget, __________?
  8. You’re not afraid of heights, __________?
  9. They had a great time, __________?
  10. We won’t be late, __________?

Exercise 2: Rewrite each statement with a different question tag.

  1. You are happy, aren’t you?
  2. She can speak French, __________?
  3. They haven’t arrived yet, __________?
  4. He should know the answer, __________?
  5. We won’t forget, __________?
  6. It’s raining outside, __________?
  7. You like ice cream, __________?
  8. She isn’t feeling well, __________?
  9. He didn’t go to the concert, __________?
  10. They will come tomorrow, __________?

Exercise 3: Identify whether each statement is affirmative or negative, and then add the appropriate question tag.

  1. He is coming, __________?
  2. They don’t like pizza, __________?
  3. She has finished her homework, __________?
  4. We can’t swim, __________?
  5. You will be there, __________?
  6. It’s not raining, __________?
  7. He didn’t forget, __________?
  8. They won the game, __________?
  9. You haven’t seen the movie, __________?
  10. She should know the answer, __________?

How do you form a question tag?

Form a question tag by using the auxiliary verb from the main sentence, followed by a pronoun. If there’s no auxiliary, use “do,” e.g., “You understood, didn’t you?”

Why do we use question tags?

Question tags are used to engage a listener, confirm information, or show interest in the listener’s opinion, making conversations interactive and attentive.

Can question tags be negative or positive?

Yes, question tags can be negative or positive. Use a negative tag after a positive sentence and vice versa to maintain balance, like “She is coming, isn’t she?”

Are question tags the same in all English dialects?

While question tags are used across English dialects, the frequency and exact form can vary. British English often uses them more formally than American English.

How do question tags affect the tone of a sentence?

Question tags can make a statement less direct and softer, implying politeness or uncertainty, thereby making the conversation more engaging and less confrontational.

What are common mistakes when using question tags?

Common mistakes include using the wrong auxiliary verb, mismatching the tag polarity with the sentence, or using an incorrect pronoun in the tag.

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