Question tags

Do you know how to use question tags like is he and didn't you?

Look at these examples to see how question tags are used.

You haven't seen this film, have you?
Your sister lives in Spain, doesn't she?
He can't drive, can he?

Try this exercise to test your grammar.

Grammar test 1

Question tags: Grammar test 1

Read the explanation to learn more.

Grammar explanation

We can add question tags like isn't it?, can you? or didn't they? to a statement to make it into a question. Question tags are more common in speaking than writing.

We often use question tags when we expect the listener to agree with our statement. In this case, when the statement is positive, we use a negative question tag.

She's a doctor, isn't she?
Yesterday was so much fun, wasn't it?

If the statement is negative, we use a positive question tag. 

He isn't here, is he?
The trains are never on time, are they?
Nobody has called for me, have they?

If we are sure or almost sure that the listener will confirm that our statement is correct, we say the question tag with a falling intonation. If we are a bit less sure, we say the question tag with a rising intonation.

Formation

If there is an auxiliary verb in the statement, we use it to form the question tag.

I don't need to finish this today, do I?
James is working on that, isn't he?
Your parents have retired, haven't they?
The phone didn't ring, did it?
It was raining that day, wasn't it?
Your mum hadn't met him before, had she?

Sometimes there is no auxiliary verb already in the statement. For example, when:

... the verb in the statement is present simple or past simple and is positive. Here we use don't, doesn't or didn't:

Jenni eats cheese, doesn't she?
I said that already, didn't I? 

... the verb in the statement is to be in the present simple or past simple. In this case we use to be to make the question tag:

The bus stop's over there, isn't it?
None of those customers were happy, were they?

... the verb in the statement is a modal verb. Here we use the modal verb to make the question tag:

They could hear me, couldn't they?
You won't tell anyone, will you?

If the main verb or auxiliary verb in the statement is am, the positive question tag is am I? but the negative question tag is usually aren't I?:

I'm never on time, am I?
I'm going to get an email with the details, aren't I?

Do this exercise to test your grammar again.

Grammar test 2

Question tags: Grammar test 2

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Profile picture for user Peter M.

Submitted by Peter M. on Fri, 08/05/2020 - 06:51

In reply to by Henok17

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Hello Henok17,

The second sentence is a normal question. It does not tell us what the speaker expects; it only asks for information.

The first sentence is called a tag question. It is still a question, but it also tells us something about what the speaker thinks. The speaker believes that the other person is a pilot, and is asking for confirmation. In other words, the speaker will be surprised if the answer is not 'Yes, I am'.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by nguyen huu hoa on Tue, 05/05/2020 - 16:34

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hello He hardly has anything nowadays , does he ? or He hardly has anything nowadays , has he ? thanks
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Submitted by Peter M. on Wed, 06/05/2020 - 07:42

In reply to by nguyen huu hoa

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Hello nguyen huu hoa,

We only use have/has in tag questions when it is used as an auxiliary verb in the main clause: a perfect form (have/has + verb3: have gone, has been etc) or have got.

In your example, has is the main verb, so does is needed in the tag. The first sentence is correct.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Sariyya0909 on Mon, 04/05/2020 - 15:06

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Hello I think they will come to the school, won't they? I dont think they will come to school, will they Could you explain it please?
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Submitted by Peter M. on Tue, 05/05/2020 - 07:13

In reply to by Sariyya0909

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Hello Sariyya0909,

When the main clause contains an affirmative verb, the tag question is normally negative. Thus, in the first example we have will come and so in the tag we have won't they.

 

In the second example, we still have will come but there is a negative verb introducing it (don't think) and this means that we use an affirmative form in the tag (will they).

It doesn't matter if you say I don't think they will or I thinnk they won't:

I think they won't come to school, will they?

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Celesiia on Thu, 30/04/2020 - 16:04

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Is it Don't forget your appointment, will you? And is it Paul will join the football team, won't he?
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Submitted by Kirk on Thu, 30/04/2020 - 16:13

In reply to by Celesiia

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Hello Celesiia

It's pretty rare to use a question tag with imperative statements, but, yes, you could say the first sentence. You can read a little more about this on this page.

The second sentence is also correct.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by aurora kastanias on Wed, 29/04/2020 - 15:45

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Hello. I am confused about the use of question tags with "he wouldn't have allowed it" is it "would he have?" or "would have he?" I guess whatever rule applies would extend to should and could?

Hello aurora kastanias,

In question tags we repeat only the modal verb, not the perfect have. Thus, the tag would be as follows:

He wouldn't have allowed it, would he?

 

The rule applies to all perfect modals - should have, could have etc.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

I think it's simple way of making learners understand by saying,"when you have two helping verbs in the sentences you get the first helping verb in the tag question." Pl correct if it needs.

Submitted by Dusan on Tue, 21/04/2020 - 21:51

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Is it correct to say: I am going to be late, ain't I?

Hello Dusan,

Ain't is generally found in US English. It is very informal and may not be appropriate in some contexts, particularly in writing, but it is not incorrect.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Gaba on Tue, 14/04/2020 - 06:39

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Managers had an interesting meeting, didn`t they? or Managers had an interesting meeting, had not they?

Submitted by Anastasiaaaa on Thu, 02/04/2020 - 11:54

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Hi! For example I have a sentence : I have got a bike,...? How to make this tag : "don't I" or "haven't I"?
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Submitted by Kirk on Thu, 02/04/2020 - 14:03

In reply to by Anastasiaaaa

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Hello Anastasiaaaa

Both of those are correct in this case.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Baxtyar on Tue, 24/03/2020 - 13:58

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Can we say: We shall play well in the game, shan't we?

Hello Baxtyar

This would sound very unusual nowadays. For one thing, 'shall' is not used to speak about the future; it is used to make offers or suggestions. Secondly, 'shan't' is almost never used in ordinary speaking or writing.

A more common way of expressing this idea would be 'We're going to play well, aren't we?' or 'We're going to play well, right?'

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Baxtyar on Mon, 23/03/2020 - 03:52

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So why do English reuse "ought" in question tag for "ought to", for example, You ought to stay indoor, oughtn't you? Isn't right that what is true for goose, it is so for the gander? What is the difference between "ought to" and "need to"? Aren't they both semi-modals? Wasn't "need" reused in tags either old English or various dialects? Thanks.

Hello Baxtyar,

Need is a verb which is in the process of change. In the past, need was a full modal verb and its grammar was in line with other modal verbs. Thus, questions were formed with inversion:

Need you do that?

 

However, in modern English this sounds highly archaic and unnatural. Instead, we form questions as we would with other non-modal verbs such as want:

Do you need to do that?

 

This is the reason why need is not used in question tags in modern English. However, in some aspects need still has apsects of its modal verb roots. We can form a negative with or without an auxiliary (don't need or needn't) and can make a perfect form (need have), for example. 

 

Ought is undergoing a similar process, but it still retains most of its modal grammar and can be used in question tags. In the future, I expect it will follow the same path as need.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Baxtyar on Sat, 21/03/2020 - 04:29

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What is the question tag for: (You need to study hard)? Is (need to) ever reused in the tag in British accent, American, Australian and so on?

Hello Baxyar,

For sentences with need we form question tags with do:

You need to study hard, do/don't you?

 

We don't use need in question tags.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Bharati on Sun, 23/02/2020 - 06:12

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Hello, When question tag is added to a simple sentence ,what form does it take grammatically? Does the entire sentence become compound sentence having two co-ordinate clauses: one, the simple sentence and other, the question tag? Thanks
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Submitted by Peter M. on Fri, 28/02/2020 - 08:22

In reply to by Bharati

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Hello Bharati,

A tag question is a dependent clause attached to the main clause, with a pronoun referring back to a noun in the main clause. Downing uses the term 'abbreviated clause' and defines tag questions as follows:

Question tags are not independent clauses, but they do require a response, and are highly interactive. Structurally, interrogatives are abbreviated yes/no interrogatives consisting of an operator (either positive or negative) and a pronoun, which repeats the subject or substitutes for it. Question tags are attached to one of the following clause types: Of these, the declarative is by far the most common.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Thanks Peter, If question tags are classified as dependent clause, then obviously the sentence becomes a complex sentence, isn't it. So, which category (Noun/Adjective/Adverb)of dependent clause will question tag fall in? Thanks
Hello Peter, May i seek your response on my clarification regarding Tag question. Thanks

Submitted by MariaJudith on Thu, 13/02/2020 - 19:17

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This topic is a little bit confusing but now I can understand better than the last week.