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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Submitted by Ting_Tu on Sat, 30/10/2021 - 09:30

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Hi, I saw a question on an English test for kids.
Ex: It looks like an ant. “ Is it”?

Is it grammatically correct? I was wondering why it isn’t “doesn’t it” Written at the end. And it confuses me.
Thank you for the response in advance.

Hello Ting_Tu,

If it's a test on question tags, then you are right in thinking that the tag should be 'doesn't it'.

If it's not that, then the sentence is possibly correct. It could be a question which the speaker uses to ask the other person if their perception is correct. For example, if a very small child drew a picture and I wasn't sure what it was, I could say to them 'It looks like an ant. Is it?' When I say 'Is it?', I mean 'Is it (an ant)?'

Does that make sense?

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by KAKA on Sat, 23/10/2021 - 20:02

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First: What is the difference between:
1- I am late, am I not?
2- I am late, aren't I?

Second: Why this tag question is wrong?
I am late, am not I?

Hello KAKA,

The tag 'am I not' is much more formal and even old-fashioned; it is rarely used in modern English other than in a self-consciously formal manner or in extremely formal settings (speeches in court or parliament, for example).

Question tags use the inverted form verb+subject+negation unless they are contracted (they are usually contracted). Thus we have:
is he not / isn't he
would she not / wouldn't she
can he not / can't he
does he not / doesn't he
etc.

Peter
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Paul_the_teacher on Sat, 10/07/2021 - 10:28

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Hi there, How would you explain/justify an unusual question tag after the following clause: "I do not think we could get away with that, DO you?"

Submitted by Kirk on Sat, 10/07/2021 - 14:56

In reply to by Paul_the_teacher

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Hello Paul,

This is actually a normal situation, though the sentence is a bit more complex than the examples on this page since it has two verbs. The question tag 'do you' refers to the verb 'I don't think'; since 'don't think' is negative, the question tag is affirmative 'do you'.

As you can see, the question tag doesn't refer to 'could get away with', but rather the verb 'think' that frames the sentence.

Does that make sense?

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by langkhach on Sat, 10/04/2021 - 11:08

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Have a nice day, Kirk and the team, My name is Van, from Hanoi, Vietnam. Would you mind helping me to clarify which one is the correct answer for the following sentence: "There has been little rain in this area for too long,_______?" A. has it B. has there C. hasn't it D. hasn't there Thank you.

Submitted by Tim on Thu, 01/04/2021 - 07:50

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Question tag for the following sentence would be??? You must come to the party, ____?

Hello Tim,

I'd say 'right' here, which can be used as a kind of universal question tag, but you could also form it with the modal verb used in the sentence: 'mustn't you'. There's nothing grammatically wrong with using 'mustn't' as a question tag, but it's a bit unusual.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Tim on Thu, 01/04/2021 - 06:22

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Hi there! Please tell me how to change the following sentence to Interrogative-negative sentence => It has a laminated cover.

Hello Tim,

Doesn't it have a laminated cover?

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Thanks Kirk, please tell me if 'has' is the main verb of the following sentence? It has a laminated cover.

Hello Tim,

Yes, in fact, 'has' is the only verb in the sentence. I suppose you could call 'laminated' a type of verb since it's derived from one, but it has an adjectival function here.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

 

Submitted by Tim on Thu, 25/03/2021 - 05:45

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I am happy, aren't I? Is this correct?

Submitted by Tim on Thu, 25/03/2021 - 05:41

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They weren't able to come, were they? Is it correct?

Submitted by Lauraduque on Sat, 20/03/2021 - 11:44

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Hello. In a phrase with there, such as "There's never a clean bag, ...?" Would the tag be "isn't there?" Or "is there?" Does "never" affect the verb so it's taken as "isn't" and consequently the tag is positive?: "..., is there?" TIA

Hello Lauraduque,

The correct question tag here is 'is there' for exactly the reason you ask about. Nice job!

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by JustAStudent on Thu, 04/03/2021 - 09:08

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Hello! I had an argument with my english teacher about this exercise: "Add the correct question tag" "1. You went to Scotland, .......?" And he said that the answer was "didn't you" but I told him the actual answer was "don't you" Can someone tell who was right?

Hello JustAStudent,

Your teacher is right. The tense of the question tag matches the tense of the verb 'went' (past simple).

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by rosemoon on Sat, 20/02/2021 - 01:30

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Hello, How to change below statement to question form using the question word. 1)Peter told you the truth of the accident. (who) 2)They can read some fiction story. (what) Thank you in advance & have a good day :)

Submitted by Peter M. on Sat, 20/02/2021 - 08:26

In reply to by rosemoon

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Hello rosemoon,

Generally, we don't provide answers to grammar tasks or exercises like this. We're happy to provide explanations to help our users understand better, but we don't want to do users' homework or tests for them!

I can tell you that you need a subject question for the first one, and an object question for the second. You can read about how these are formed on this page:

https://learnenglish.britishcouncil.org/grammar/beginner-to-pre-intermediate/question-forms

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by dappleofmyi on Tue, 16/02/2021 - 20:36

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Hello, What is the question tag for: 'I read?' Example: I read an article now Is it 'don't I?' Thanks in advance

Submitted by Jonathan R on Wed, 17/02/2021 - 03:37

In reply to by dappleofmyi

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Hi dappleofmyi,

Yes, that's right! I read is in the present simple, without an auxiliary verb, so the tag is don't I?.

One other thing - if the sentence is about reading now, it should probably be in the present continuous: I'm reading an article now, aren't I?.

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by dappleofmyi on Mon, 25/01/2021 - 18:51

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Hello, I have a question. What is the question tag for hadn't had? Example: You hadn't had time, had you? or had had you? Thanks in advance

Hi dappleofmyi,

Had you? is the right tag. The question tag just uses the auxiliary verb :)

Best wishes,

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Raksha Jha on Fri, 22/01/2021 - 02:58

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What if the sentence in is future tense with no helping verb.which tags to use in this case?

Submitted by LaurenceMartin on Sat, 16/01/2021 - 18:00

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To the editor of the page . . . serious error, just under the green "Formation" heading. The text reads, "The bus stop's over there, isn't it?" Obviously should be, "The bus stops over there, doesn't it?" https://learnenglish.britishcouncil.org/grammar/intermediate-to-upper-intermediate/question-tags

Hello LaurenceMartin,

The sentence is correct. The word 'stop' is not a verb here but part of a noun phrase (the bus stop) and the 's is a contraction of 'is':

The bus stop's over there, isn't it?

The bus stop is over there, isn't it?

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Ali qas on Sat, 09/01/2021 - 19:11

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Hello, Children have to get up early for school, don't they? Some say haven't they? Is this correct or not?

Submitted by Peter M. on Sun, 10/01/2021 - 08:23

In reply to by Ali qas

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Hello Ali qas,

Both forms are used, but I think don't they is preferable from a grammatical standpoint as the verb have to generally uses the auxiliary do rather than inversion for questions and negatives.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Shahab on Sat, 02/01/2021 - 14:52

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Pleas help me I have important question Zoos arent the only pleace we can see animals' arent they?/cant we? Witch is true and why????

Hello Shahab,

If I've understood correctly, the correct sentence is: 'Zoos aren't the only place we can see animals, are they?'

Remember that if the main verb is negative, the verb in question tag is usually affirmative.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Yigido on Sat, 02/01/2021 - 11:14

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Hİ team, I have a question. ''I think the new teacher is a great person,-isn't she- or -don't you-?''Which one is true and why?

Hello Yigido,

What I'd recommend here is 'I think the new teacher is a great person. Don't you?' (in this case, 'Don't you?' isn't really a question tag, I'd say) or 'The new teacher is a great person, isn't she?'

As you've surmised, if you have two verbs in the statement that you add a question tag to, it gets a little confusing.

Hope that makes sense.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Veronika on Tue, 22/12/2020 - 22:41

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I have problem with this: This is the guy you mentioned to me, isn't....? Should it be like this: This is the guy you mentioned to me, isn't this?

Hello Veronika,

The correct tag here is '...isn't it?' We don't use 'this' in question tags.

 

It's a similar pattern to the short answer to the question:

This is the guy you mentioned to me.

Yes, it is.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Englishteacher1 on Mon, 21/12/2020 - 17:12

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Hello, Please can you tell me which of the following is correct and why. - Tom, you could lend me your bike, couldn't you? - Tom, you couldn't lend me your bike, could you? I teach English, but am having a dispute with a fellow teacher over this.

Submitted by Peter M. on Tue, 22/12/2020 - 09:16

In reply to by Englishteacher1

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Hello EnglishTeacher1,

Both are possible, grammatically speaking. However, the second is the more common way to make a polite request.

If you have a particular context in mind then we can comment on that, of course.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Good morning! Would the intonation be up for both? Or up for ine and down for the other and which way, if this is the case? Thank you so much for your help in this matter.

Hello again Englishteacher1,

Obviously, intonation is highly dependent on context and the speaker's intention and expectations. That said, I would expect the following:

Sentence 1 (...couldn't you?) - the question is probably rhetorical and the speaker is sure that the answers is yes; the inonation would likely be falling on the tag.

Sentence 2 (...could you?) - the question is probably a real request for information and the speaker is unsure of the answer (though hopeful it will be 'yes'); the inonation would likely be rising on the tag.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by LaurenceMartin on Sat, 16/01/2021 - 18:12

In reply to by Englishteacher1

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We wouldn't say, "Tom, you could lend me your bike, couldn't you?" But, "Tom, you couldn't lend me your bike, could you?" . . . is a very polite and gentle way to ask a favour. I know it sounds crazy, to start a request with "You couldn't" . . . but it's just the way we say it. It's almost as if we are expecting our request to be refused. And then at the end, we make a desperate plea with, "could you ?" A very frequent request is, "Hey Tom, you couldn't lend me a fiver, could you? I'll pay you back tomorrow"

Hello LaurenceMartin,

As I said in my earlier reply, the version with '...you couldn't...' is certainly the more common way to make a polite request. However, the other version is not incorrect and is possible in certain contexts, particularly when you are trying to convince someone to do something or want to exert pressure on them to comply.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Drew Gun on Sat, 12/12/2020 - 23:12

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Hello I am dubious about the following structure: #He is a good football player, is not he? I've only come across it in shakespeare's writings, but not in modern English. Is it better to say: #He is a rock player, is he not? If the first example is incorrect, could You please explain why? Thank you in advance.

Submitted by Peter M. on Sun, 13/12/2020 - 08:36

In reply to by Drew Gun

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Hello Drew Gun,

In modern English the tag question is almost always contracted: isn't he?

In the uncontracted form it would be is he not?

There is no tag question form is not he?

 

It's been a while since I studied Shakespeare, but I don't recall the form occurring in his writings as a tag question. Do you have a line you could quote in which it appears?

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello M. Peter I didn't actually saw question tags there, but the that pattern did appear there, although I don't remember where too. I have looked up for that structure and at forums it's said to be archaic and not used anymore.

Submitted by Stellaaa on Sun, 29/11/2020 - 14:01

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Hello Did you forget your umbrella,didn't you? Didn't you forget your umbrella,did you? What is difference between these?