Question tags

Question tags

Do you know how to use question tags like is he and didn't you? Test what you know with interactive exercises and read the explanation to help 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

Average: 4.2 (117 votes)

Hi k. k_h,

A question mark is used for a direct question. For indirect questions, it's used if the stem is also a question, but it's not used if the stem is a statement. For example:

  • What time is it? (direct question)
  • Do you know what time it is? (indirect question - question stem "Do you know")
  • I wonder what time it is. (indirect question - sentence stem "I wonder")

Sentence 1 in your message is incorrect and it should end with a full stop, not a question mark. Despite it being incorrect, people do sometimes put a question mark after indirect questions like that, especially in informal writing where the expectations of grammatical correctness are lower.

I hope that helps to understand it.

Jonathan

LearnEnglish team

Thank you, sir.

I have one another question about the structure of the interrogative sentences.
Why we write as "what time is it?" Instead of "what time it is?".
If there is any rule, then kindly share it with me.

Hi k. k_h,

To say the time, we use "It" as the subject (e.g. It's 4 o'clock). To make a direct question, the verb (is) goes before the subject (It): What time is it? You can read more examples of questions like this on our Present simple: 'to be' page (linked). See the "Questions with question words" section. I hope it helps.

"What time it is" is only used as part of an indirect question, e.g. Do you know what time it is?.

Jonathan

LearnEnglish team

Submitted by Kinzah on Wed, 06/09/2023 - 05:08

Permalink

Hi
I have a query regarding tag questions that include words like seldom, rarely, scarcely etc in the statement.
For example:
You rarely work on Sundays,
Don't you or do you.
Thankyou

Hello Kinzah,

Good question! We generally use non-negative tags after sentences with words with a negative meaning, so in this case 'do you' would be the correct option.

If it were me speaking, however, I'd probably use an alternative question tag such as 'right' ('You rarely work on Sundays, right?') or formulate the question differently, as this kind of sentence sounds a little odd to me.

Hope this helps.

All the best,
Kirk
LearnEnglish team

Submitted by Sokhomkim on Sun, 20/08/2023 - 14:13

Permalink

Hello, Sir!
I wanted to know which tag is correct.
e.g., Neither of the markets was open yesterday, ....?
A. was it?
B. were they?
I think "A" is right because the verb is singular and the gender can is definite.
e.g., Either of the men is guilt, ....?
A. isn't he
B. aren't they
Personally, "A" should be right as it refers to one of the two men and the gender is clear.
Thank you in advance for your time.
Best Wishes!

Hi Sokhomkim,

Yes, right. A is the right answer for both. "Either" and "Neither" are singular, so the verb should be "was" or "is".

However, in real life usage, people do occasionally use plural verb forms after "either" and "neither", though this would traditionally be considered incorrect.

Jonathan

LearnEnglish team

Submitted by aja3171 on Sun, 20/08/2023 - 05:08

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Hi,
Please help as I am confused. Is this correct and can you explain if it’s wrong or right? I just saw this in a comment.

She doesn’t seem to be smart, does she?

My first thought was it was wrong but I’m no expert.

Thanks in advance!

Hello aja3171,

The sentence is fine. This is an example of a tag question and there are three variants:

1. positive verb + negative tag: She seems smart, doesn't she?

2. negative verb + positive tagShe doesn't seem smart, does she?

3. positive verb + positive tag: She seems smart, does she?

The first and second constructions have the same usage: they show that the information is known and not surprising. They are rhetorical questions which do not necessarily require answers.

The third construction is different. We use this when we are surprised at something the other person has said and we are showing this surprise and asking for confirmation. It has a similar meaning to 'Really? I didn't know/expect that.'

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team