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: 4.1 (91 votes)
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Submitted by Sokhomkim on Thu, 22/02/2024 - 13:00

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Hello, Sir!
I wanted to know if negative prepositions, such as "without" affect the tag:
e.g., You went to the party without her, did you? / didn't you?
Thank you for your time.

Hello Sokhomkim,

Good question! No, in general they don't. In this sentence, the typical question tag is 'didn't you' whether you say 'with' or 'without'.

Best wishes,
Kirk
LearnEnglish team

Submitted by mirak on Mon, 05/02/2024 - 08:33

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Hi
About question tags in the imperative for example : open that door, will you?
But how the question tag would be if the statement was negative. Example don't open that door,......

Hi mirak,

It is also "will you?" for negative imperatives. However, in real life usage, it is very rarely used. 

Jonathan

LearnEnglish team

Submitted by MiraA2023 on Sun, 07/01/2024 - 15:05

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How would we create a question tag with 'have to' here:
'We have to recycle once a week, __________?
Would it be 'haven't we' or 'don't we'?

Hello MiraA2023,

Most of the time (and always in American English), people would say 'don't we' here. I would recommend saying 'don't we', but as far as I know 'haven't we' is not wrong.

When 'have' is an auxiliary verb in a perfect tense such as the present perfect, we would use 'haven't we'. In this case, 'have to' isn't exactly an auxiliary verb and so we typically use 'do' as its auxiliary verb.

Does that make sense?

Best wishes,
Kirk
LearnEnglish team

Submitted by Bwagge on Sat, 28/10/2023 - 11:27

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Hi, Sir!

Please help as I am confused. Is it correct to say mayn't or may not in the tag question?

Thanks in advance!

Hello Bwagge,

It's extremely unusual to use 'mayn't'. I can't imagine a time that I'd recommend you use it.

In theory, 'may not' with an appropriate subject pronoun (e.g. 'may she not') is possible. It's also unusual, though certainly possible.

All the best,
Kirk
LearnEnglish team

Submitted by k. k_h on Mon, 25/09/2023 - 17:49

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Dear Sir, I am confused about question mark use. I know it uses with WH question, but I saw Wh question without q's mark. If it is because of the indirect question. Then how it is used here.

1) I asked john where his purse was?
2) I couldn't tell him where I was.

I do not understand why the question mark is used in sentence 1 and why not in sentence 2. Please will you make it easy for me.
Thank you

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