Site Search:

Understanding and Using Tag Questions (#1), by Dennis Oliver

Tag Questions #1:


Tag questions are something like negative questions, since
they are used when someone
thinks she / he knows the
answer and wants confirmation. The
form of tag questions
is quite different from the form of negative questions, however.

There are two main types of tag questions--one for affirmative
statements and one for negative statements. Both consist of
the statement (affirmative or negative), plus a short ending
(the "tag") and a question mark.

Let's look at tag questions for affirmative statements first.


Tag Questions

Affirmative Statements



Tag questions for affirmative statements have this form:

negative BE
negative auxiliary verb
subject pronoun




That question is easy. ----->
That question is easy,
isn't it?

He's working hard. ----->
He's working hard,
isn't he?

There's a test tomorrow. ----->
There's a test tomorrow,
isn't there?

He was angry. ----->
He was angry,
wasn't he?

He was watching TV. ----->
He was watching TV,
wasn't he?

There were many problems. ----->
There were many problems,
weren't there?

This seems easy. ----->
This seems easy,
doesn't it?

She worked yesterday. ----->
She worked yesterday,
didn't she?

He left early. ----->
He left early,
didn't he?

They've already finished. ----->
They've already finished,
haven't they?

She's visited Paris. ----->
She's visited Paris,
hasn't she?

He's been there a long time.----->
He's been there a long time,
hasn't he?

They'd left when you arrived. ----->
They'd left when you arrived,
hadn't they?

She can play violin very well. --->
She can play violin very well,
can't she?

We should leave early. ----->
We should leave early,
shouldn't we?

We'd better hurry. ----->
We'd better hurry,
hadn't we?



Special Notes:

1.   Tag questions are also called "answer-presuming
questions" or "confirmation questions" because we
ask them when we think (presume) that we know
the answer. (We want someone else to tell us if
we are right or wrong--to confirm whether the
answer that we think is correct is really correct.)
2.   Notice that the tags have BE or an auxiliary verb.
If the statement doesn't have BE (is, am, are, was,
were) or an auxiliary verb (have, has, had, can,

may, will, etc.), use do, does, or did.
3.   Notice that tags for affirmative ( + ) statements
are negative.

When the verb in the statement is am, the tag is
aren't I:

I'm here, aren't I? / I'm correct, aren't I?

(Aren't is used because there is no commonly
accepted contraction for
am not.)


The answers for tag questions can be yes, no, or
I don't know:

Q: Jaime's from México, isn't he?

A: Yes, he is. He's from San Luis Potosí.
A: No, he isn't from México. He's from El Salvador.
A: I don't know.


You can think that you know the answer but
be wrong.)


When the subject of the statement is this or that,
the pronoun in the tag ending is it:

This is easy, isn't it?

That's your book, isn't it?


Next: more on questions and answers
Dave's ESL Cafe is maintained by the one and only Dave Sperling.
Banner Advertising | Bookstore / Alta Books | FAQs | Articles | Interview with Dave
Copyright © 1995-2007 Dave's ESL Cafe | All Rights Reserved | Contact Dave's ESL Cafe | Site Map