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 Robert_6734 on Mon, 08/08/2022 - 22:42

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You used to hate chocolate,_______?
What is the appropriate verb to fill in the sentence

Hello Robert_6734,

I'm afraid we don't provide answers to questions from elsewhere. We're happy to explain rules and examples, or to answer questions about all different aspects of language use, but we don't just answer questions because we would end up doing users' homework and tests for them, which is not our role!

 

I can tell you that 'used to' is treated as a regular past simple form when we make a question tag. That should help you to work it out.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Altayresco on Fri, 22/07/2022 - 01:40

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Hi!! i have a question, i heard someone said " We have been through a lot , didn't we?
is that correct or should it be "We have been through a lot, haven't we?"

Hi Altayresco,

The version with "haven't we" is the correct one. If the tag is "didn't we" (past simple), the sentence should have a past simple main verb too (e.g. "We went through a lot, didn't we?").

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Macbreton Mandah on Sun, 17/07/2022 - 17:23

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He had enough time, didn't he?
Is this correct?

Hi Macbreton Mandah,

Yes, that's right :) The tag should be "didn't he", not "hadn't he", because "had" is the main verb in this sentence (rather than an auxiliary verb).

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Szayel on Sat, 09/07/2022 - 08:53

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Hello The English Team , hope all is well with you all :)

Could you possibly explain the structures " had better " and " would rather " in tags ?

I assume " we'd better leave , right? or huh ? " is correct rather than

We'd better leave , shouldn't we ? " which might be grammatically correct

I'd very much appreciate it if you would correct my mistakes if I've made any and kindly let us in on the correct forms

Hello Szayel,

'We had better leave, right?' is fine. Using 'huh' as a question tag sounds wrong to me, but perhaps I haven't understood what word you mean exactly.

'We had better leave, shouldn't we?' is not correct. In informal speaking people sometimes use 'hadn't' as if it were a modal here ('We had better leave, hadn't we?'), but I'm not sure that's completely correct, to be honest. If you were speaking in an informal situation, I'd say it would be fine, but I'm not sure I'd recommend it in others.

Unlike with 'had better', it is correct to use 'would' in 'would rather' in this same way: 'She'd rather go home now, wouldn't she?' is correct.

Hope that helps.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

 

Submitted by Yegan on Tue, 14/06/2022 - 05:28

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Hi sir,
How can we make a tag question, when we have' that' in our sentence.
I heard from somewhere that if your first clause is started by pronouns like 'I or We' You should make a tag question from your second clause.
for instance:
I never said that Terry would come, wouldn't he?
Is this correct?
or should it be like: I never said that Terry would come, did I?
And what if our sentence would not start by I or We?

Hello Yegan,

Normally the question tag refers to the main verb, that is, the verb that is not inside the 'that' clause. So 'I never said that Terry would come, did I?' is the correct one. I want to say this is always true, but perhaps I'm just not imaginative enough at the moment to think of a situation where the question tag refers to the verb inside the clause!

I'm not familiar with what you mention about 'I' and 'we'. As far as I know, the subject can be any person -- for example, 'He never said that Terry would come, did he?' is correct.

Let us know if you have any other questions about this.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Faii on Tue, 10/05/2022 - 13:43

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Hi Sir,
Could you tell me how to answer a question tag ?

If sb says,"You aren't going out tonight,are you ?"(falling intonation)
And I say "Yes",does it mean I'm not going out tonight?

Thanks

Hi Faii,

If you say "Yes (I am)", it means you are going out (i.e., you contradict the statement).

If you say "No (I'm not)", it means you are not going out (i.e., you agree with the statement). Or, you can simply say "Right".

I hope that helps :)

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Roshkook on Tue, 10/05/2022 - 08:29

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So the staff at my school made a test paper with the question
There is little water in the bottle _____________?
There is debate about whether the answer should be
a) isn't there? b) is there?
I understand that little is a negative idea
For example for the question tag
Little can be done to improve the situation, can it?
However, I still feel that putting the answer they're looking for (is there?) would make the sentence feel more clunky than it should be.
I feel the better sentence would be
There is little water in the bottle isn't there?

Would you have any input on the question?
Thank you!

Hi Roshkook,

I think it is ambiguous. If the question is intended to elicit confirmation of or a response to what the speaker already knows to be true, I would use "is there?" (and a falling intonation). If it is intended as a genuine question to find out the real answer, I would use "isn't there?" (and a rising intonation). Both intended meanings seem plausible to me for this sentence but since it is only a sentence without any context, we have no other clues about which meaning is intended and that's why I find it ambiguous. That's just my view :)

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by DonEnglish on Tue, 03/05/2022 - 16:11

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The word "child" in question tag we use he/she if we know. If we don't know we use they .good!
What about the word "baby" question's tag ?
Thank you in advance. Please reply fast .

Hello DonEnglish,

Like with 'child', the first choice would be to say 'he' or 'she' if we know the baby's sex. If not, I think most people would say 'it'; some, though fewer, might say 'they'. It's not uncommon to use 'it' to refer to a baby whose sex is unknown.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by TracyHoang on Tue, 12/04/2022 - 09:05

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Dear sir,
What is the correct question tag for this sentence. Is the first or the second tag correct?
1: He could have bought a new car, couldn't he?
2: He could have bought a new car, hasn't he?
Thanks so much,
Tracy

Submitted by anjalibudhamagar on Mon, 11/04/2022 - 17:18

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What is the question tag for What is your name? And how old are you?

Hi anjalibudhamagar,

Question tags change a statement into a question. They can't be added to questions, only to statements. So you could ask, for example:

  • Your name is Sam, isn't it?
  • You're 25 years old, aren't you?

I hope that helps.

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Giao Huynh on Fri, 08/04/2022 - 05:53

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Hello everyone,
What is the question tag for : "This is my father,..........?"
I know the question tag for "This is" is "isn't it" like in: "This is my book, isn't it?"
Is it OK to use "isn't it" for peple as well?
Thanks,

Giao

Hello Giao Huynh,

Yes, the correct tag for 'this is' is 'isn't it'.

You can use this to talk about people when you have them in front of you. For example, you might be trying to identify someone in a group or in a photo: That is John in the corner, isn't it? 

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Anne_Rei on Wed, 06/04/2022 - 17:22

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Dear Sir,
I have a question for you. What is the tag question for "have to" or "had to" as modal verbs?
I hope you will answer my question.
All the best,
Thank you

Hi Anne_Rei,

It's the same tag as for most other verbs, using do. Here are some examples.

  • You have to go home now, don't you?
  • We had to work hard yesterday, didn't we?

But if have is an auxiliary verb, have is used in the tag as well, for example:

  • She has arrived, hasn't she?

I hope that helps.

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by rhsubedi99 on Sat, 02/04/2022 - 12:39

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What is tag of 'I don't think she is fine,.....?' I think "is she?"

Hello rhsubedi99,

Question tags aren't typically used in sentences beginning with 'I think' (or 'I don't think'). This is because a question tag invites the other person to confirm what you said, but since the sentence begins with 'I think' (or 'I don't think'), it's as if you were asking them to confirm what you think -- this is odd at best and in most cases unnatural.

One could say 'I don't think she's fine. Is she?', but I'm not sure I'd call this a question tag, as there's be a pause between the statement and the question tag.

Hope this helps.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Nirajan_KC on Fri, 25/03/2022 - 15:15

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The sun sets in the west, doesn't it? Someone says this is wrong. I wonder why?

Submitted by faraz on Tue, 18/01/2022 - 08:15

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Excuse me sir,
What would be the better question tag for I hate you,....?
Do I? Or Don't I?
Thankyou.

Hello faraz,

Both of these question tags are grammatically correct, but have different meanings.

The kind of question tag our page focuses on shows that we expect the answer to the main question to be true: 'I hate you, don't I?' means that I expect your answer to be 'yes'. This is the most common type of question tag, where the question tag is negative if the other verb is affirmative, and the question tag is affirmative if the other verb is negative.

There is another, less common type of question tag, however, which has an affirmative verb in both parts: 'I hate you, do I?' In this case, we don't know what the answer is -- we think the answer could be 'yes' or 'no'.

You can read more about this on this Cambridge Dictionary page (https://dictionary.cambridge.org/grammar/british-grammar/tags), where they explain the second type in more detail.

Hope this helps.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello rhsubedi99,

We'll be happy to help but first why don't you let us know what you think it is? We'll let you know if your answer is correct and tell you the answer if you get it wrong.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello rhsubedi99,

Yes, 'isn't it' is the correct question tag here; 'isn't mine' is not.

Good work!

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Excuse me sir. Please help me with this question.
Hamad refused to give Mrs Sanga a discount.
If I add a question tag '' didn't he'' am I correct?

Hello aggie,

Yes, that is the correct question tag. The tag is negative because 'refused' is affirmative, and the tag is in the past simple because 'refused' is in the past simple.

Good job!

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by robincherly on Tue, 11/01/2022 - 13:19

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Plz what is the question tag of ''No heaven for pagans''

Hello robincherly,

Normally a sentence needs to have a verb for a question tag to make sense. Here I assume the full idea is 'There is no heaven for pagans' and so the question tag would be 'is there?'

Does that make sense?

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by SonuKumar on Sun, 19/12/2021 - 18:03

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Sir,
Is it unprofessional to leave a space before a question mark at the end of the sentence like this ?

Hello SonuKumar,

It might be appropriate in some styles, but in all of the British and American English styles I have seen, there is no space between the last word in a sentence and the question mark.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

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?"
Profile picture for user Kirk

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, ____?