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Tag Questions–Mini-Questions at the End of a Statement

Tag questions are mini-questions that follow a short, simple statement. They turn the statement into a question. We use tag questions when we think we already know the answer. We think the other person agrees with us, however, we want to check just to make sure. For example, ” It’s hot,” is a statement. “It’s hot, isn’t it?” is tag question. I want to make sure that you agree that it’s hot. In this posting, I talk about how to form and use tag questions. There will be many example sentences. The download will give you more practice using them.

What are tag questions?

Tag questions are mini-questions added to a statement. It helps confirm that you and I agree. If you don’t agree, however, you need to tell me. Tag questions are used in informal speaking and writing. They can be used in many tenses: simple present, present continuous, simple past, present perfect, and simple future. With an affirmative tag, you voice intonation goes up. With a negative, tag it goes down.

Tag questions with an affirmative statement and the be verb

When statements are affirmative, the tag questions are negative. The be verb is used in both the statement and the tag. Here are some examples.

  1. You’re happy today, aren’t you?    Yes, I am. No, I’m not.
  2. He was sick yesterday, wasn’t he?   Yes, he was. No, he wasn’t.
  3. You‘ll be in Chicago next year, won’t you?   Yes, I will. No, actually I won’t.
  4. I’m in the right place, aren’t I?  Note, this is an exception.  Yes, you are. No, you’re not.

Tag questions with a negative statement and the be verb

If statements are negative, the tag questions are affirmative. Again, the be verb is used in both the statement and the tag question. Here are some examples.

  1. You‘re not happy, are you?   No, I’m not. Yes, I really am.
  2. He wasn’t sick yesterday, was he No, he wasn’t. Actually he was.
  3. You won’t be in Chicago next year, will you No, I won’t.  Yes, I will
  4. I‘m not in the right place, am I? Note, when the tag is affirmative, there is no exception. No, you’re not. Yes, actually you are.

Tag questions with all other verbs

Tag questions with all other verbs (except some modals) follow the same rules as those with the be verb. If the statement is affirmative, the tag is negative. If the statement is negative, the tag is affirmative. However, the verb in the tag is not the same as the verb in the statement.We use the do verb in the tag. Here are some examples in different tenses.

  1. Simple present:
    • You live in Texas, don’t you?
    • You don’t live in Texas, do you Yes, I do. No, I don’t.
  2. Present continuous:
    • You‘re working in a bank now, aren’t you?
    • You‘re not working in a bank now, are you Yes, I am. No, I’m not.
  3.  Simple past:
    • The Broncos won the Superbowl in 2016, didn’t they?  Yes, they did.
    • The Broncos didn’t win the Superbowl in 2017, did they?  No, they didn’t.
  4. Present perfect:
    • He‘s been to France, hasn’t he
    • He hasn’t ever been to France, has he? Yes, he has. No, he hasn’t.
  5. Simple future with e going to:
    • You‘re going to move to California next month, aren’t you
    • You‘re not going to move to California next month, are you?  Yes, I am. No, I’m not.
  6. Simple future with will:
    • She‘ll be home tomorrow night, won’t she? 
    • She won’t be home tomorrow night, will she? Yes, she will. No, she won’t.

Tag questions with modal verbs

Tag questions with modal verbs follow the same rules as other tag questions. If the statement is affirmative, the tag is negative. If the statement is negative, the tag is affirmative. There is one important difference, however. The verb in the tag uses the same modal verb as the one is the statement. Here are some example sentences.

  • She can speak Japanese, can’t she?
  • She can’t speak Japanese, can she?   Yes, she can. No, she can’t.

 

  • We should study, shouldn’t we?
  • We shouldn’t stay up late, should we?   Yes, we should. No, we shouldn’t.

 

  • You could drive last year, couldn’t you?
  • You couldn’t drive last year, could you Yes, I could. No, I couldn’t.

 

  • You would help a sick friend, wouldn’t you? 
  • You wouldn’t help a robber, would you?  Yes, I would. No, I wouldn’t.

 

  • We have to work today, don’t we? 
  • We don’t have to work today, do we?  Note, this is an exception. Have to requires the do verb in the tag. Yes, we do, No, we don’t.

Tag questions with this, that, these, those, and there

Tag questions with some special words have some special rules. As always, if the statement is affirmative is affirmative, the tag is negative. If the statement is negative, the tag is affirmative. With the words this, that, these and those, we use the third person singular or plural pronouns in the tag. Here are some example sentences.

  1. This or that with be verb:
    • This book was good, wasn’t it?
    • That movie wasn’t very funny, was it Yes, it was. No, it wasn’t.
  2. This or that with all other verbs:
    • This man lives near your uncle, doesn’t he
    • That student doesn’t like school, does he Yes, he does. No, he doesn’t.
  3. These or those with the be verb:
    • These cookies are good, aren’t they
    • Those apples aren’t fresh, are they?   Yes, they are. No, they aren’t.
  4. These or those with all other verbs:
    • These people speak Chinese, don’t they
    • Those people don’t speak English, do they?   Yes, they do. No, they don’t.
  5. There is, there are: With these words, we use the word there in the tag.
    • There’s a TV in your house, isn’t there?    Yes, there is.  No, there isn’t.
    • There aren’t any dogs in your house, are there? Yes, there are. No, there aren’t.

Tag questions with the imperative

Sometimes we use tag questions with imperative to be very polite or for emphasis. These are not really questions and do not require and answer? Here are some examples.

  1. Politeness:
    • Please sit down, won’t you
    • Close the window, would you
    • Shut the door, will you
  2. Emphasis,and a little bit less polite:
    • Do this now, will you
  3. Emphasis and anger:
    • Forget about it, will you

You now know many things about tag questions. You know that a tag question is a mini-question that turns a statement into a question. If the statement is affirmative, the tag is negative, and if the statement is negative, the tag is affirmative. Tag questions help us check to see if we agree with each other. We ask a tag question when we think we already know the answer, but we just want to check. Tag questions with be verb  or modal verbs in the statement repeat the be or modal verb in the tag. All other verbs use do in the tag. Tag questions  can be used in almost any tense. The download will give you more practice using tag questions.

You can download the practice sheet now!

Idioms of the day

  1. no picnic  This means that something is not easy.  Working full time and going to school is no picnic!
  2. blue in the face  — This means to work hard and do your very best, and still not get good results. I  argued with him till I was blue in the face, and still didn’t change his mind.

 

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