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Understanding and Using Tag Questions (#2), by Dennis Oliver

Tag Questions #2:


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.

Yesterday we took a look at tag questions for affirmative
statements. Now let's see what happens with tag questions
negative ones.


Tag Questions

Negative Statements



Tag questions for negative statements have this form:

affirmative BE
affirmative auxiliary verb
subject pronoun




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

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

There's no test tomorrow. ----->
There's no test tomorrow,
is there?

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

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

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

This doesn't seem easy. ----->
This doesn't seem easy,
does it?

She didn't work yesterday. ----->
She didn't work yesterday,
did she?

He didn't leave early. ----->
He didn't leave early,
did he?

They haven't yet finished. ----->
They haven't yet finished,
have they?

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

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

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

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

We shouldn't leave early. ----->
We shouldn't leave early,
should 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 negative ( - ) statements
are affirmative ( + ).

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

Q: Jaime's not from México, is he?

A: No, he isn't. He's from El Salvador.
A: Yes, he's from México. He's from San Luis Potosí.
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 isn't easy, is it?

That's not your book, is it?


Next: more on questions and answers

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