Questions tags are short questions that come at the end of sentences that reflect the main clause.
Wikiversity is fantastic, isn't it?
Mechanics[edit | edit source]
Negative with positive[edit | edit source]
Usually, a negative main clause has a positive question tag, and a positive main clause has a negative question tag.
|Main clause||Question tag|
|+||She is nice||isn't she?||-|
|-||She isn't nice||is she?||+|
Grammatical exception[edit | edit source]
Notice the following examples break the rule.
- Nobody came, did they? (
Nobody came, didn't they?)
- He would hardly know anything, would he? (
He would hardly know anything, wouldn't he?)
- She can never remember, can she? (
She can never remember, can't she?)
Explanation[edit | edit source]
Even when the main clause is negative, a negative question tag is used if the main clause contains a negative word, such as:
Discourse exception[edit | edit source]
Positive main clauses may have positive question tags to indicate a reaction like surprise.
- You're buying a car, are you?
- He quit, did he?
- She thinks I'm strange, does she?
Auxiliary verbs are repeated[edit | edit source]
An auxiliary verb in the main clause is repeated in the question tag.
- She can't know, can she?
- He could come, couldn't he?
- She wouldn't like to come, would she?
- He shan't go, shall he?
- She should come, shouldn't she?
Exception[edit | edit source]
The question tag of "I am" is aren't I?
- I'm right, aren't I?
- I'm done, aren't I?
- I'm ready, aren't I?
No auxiliary[edit | edit source]
If there is no auxiliary verb in the main clause, do is used instead.
- She does know, doesn't she?
- He came, didn't he?
- You ate your dinner, didn't you?
Function[edit | edit source]
They are normal in conversation but sound informal in writing. In conversation, they perform essential communicative tasks.
Seeking Agreement[edit | edit source]
Question tags function to seek agreement from the listener or reader, in the case of writing. In conversation, falling intonation at the question tag sounds affirmative.
Asking questions[edit | edit source]
In conversation, a question tag with rising intonation acts as a question.
- Today's not Tuesday, is it? (rising intonation suggests that the speaker does not know what day it is)
- That's not the president, is it? (The speaker does not know if it is the president)
Imperatives[edit | edit source]
Question tags can be used for imperatives in several ways.
Indirect requests[edit | edit source]
Negative statements with question tags often function as indirect requests.
- You couldn't lend me some cash, could you?
- You wouldn't know where the station is, would you?
Polite requests[edit | edit source]
Especially in British English, the question tag won't you? is used to make a polite request.
- Join us, won't you?
- Have some coffee, won't you?
Direct requests[edit | edit source]
As opposed to indirect main requests, if the main clause itself is an imperative, the question tag is will you?
- Come here, will you?
- Give me a break, will you?
- Finish your report, will you?
Quiz[edit | edit source]
Write question tags for these sentences.