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 (128 votes)

Submitted by noman on Mon, 24/06/2024 - 18:57

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They could hear me, couldn't they

Is is the prefferred way to give the concept of past ability.
As per Past Ability, we can not use could for one time ability in past. Am I missing something here?

Hello norman,

On the page on past ability we are quite careful with our phrasing:

Could is not usually correct when we're talking about ability at a specific moment in the past.

The reason is that there are exceptions. You can find the most common exceptions listed in this discussion:

https://english.stackexchange.com/questions/122310/was-able-to-vs-could

==========

Exception 1: with verbs of the perception and mental activities:

I could hear a faint noise.

I could understand very little.

Exception 2: with negative or limiting adverbs:

I couldn't eat the fish.

I could only find three mistakes.

Exception 3: in some subordinate clauses:

I'm happy you could come.

The doctor said she could return to work.

B. In contexts where could refers to a general past ability (as opposed to a specific occasion as in A.), then could is common and interchangeable with was able to:

My deceased parrot could say words in three languages.

She could ride a bike when she three.

After the accident I could swim but not walk.

==========

 

Your example includes a verb of perception so it is in the first group of exceptions.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

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Submitted by RithvikVijayRe… on Sat, 25/05/2024 - 08:19

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This site is very good for practicing my English skills.

Submitted by meomeomeo on Tue, 07/05/2024 - 15:06

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Hi, I want to know about question tags for the verb"need".. For example, is there a different in question tags for 'need "'& ' needn't'. You need to stay there longer, don't you _ You needn't take the test, did you? Are those correct?

Hello meomeomeo,

The tag for the first example are as follows:

You need to stay there longer, don't you? [past: needed > didn't]

You don't need to stay there longer, do you? [past: didn't > did]

You need to stay there longer, do you? [past did > did] (used for surprise or shock)

In the second example, needn't is a present form, so did is not correct. Also, in this example need and needn't are modal verbs. When we form a question tag with a modal verb we use the modal for the tag:

You shouldn't go, should you?

The past form is modal + have + verb3:

You shouldn't have gone, should you?

However, the equivalents with need are not used in modern English and sound very unnatural. We would switch to the non-modal form to make a tag question, or else use a different item such as ...right? or ...correct?

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Mr. Mansour Abdellah on Sun, 14/04/2024 - 20:14

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Excuse me , What is the difference between "talk to " and "talk with"?

Hello Mr. Mansour Abdellah,

In many contexts you can use either with no difference in meaning. In fact, I can't think of a context in which only one would be possible, so the difference is really one of nuance and/or style rather than meaning. Some people see talk with as suggesting more of a two-way conversation while talk to is often used for giving or receiving information. However, I don't think this is a very useful rule and it's much more a question of personal preference and possibly dialect. Talk to is more common in British English, I believe, while talk with is more common in US English.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

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Submitted by Iceed on Tue, 09/04/2024 - 17:50

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Please, could you help me with these questions?

4- Little water was left for me, .........?

11- He must be ill; he didn't attend the lesson today, .........?

12- He must study hard otherwise, he will fail, .........?

13- He must have bought a new car, .........?

16- The baby is fast asleep, .........?

Hello Iceed,

There are basically two steps to choosing the correct form: 1) identify the auxiliary verb that the question tag is related to, and 2) form the question tag.

In sentence 11, for example, the verb before the question tag is 'didn't attend'. To form the question tag, you use the same tense and person and use affirmative form (since 'didn't' is negative) of the auxiliary verb: 'did he?'. In 12 and 16, it's similar: 'won't he' and 'isn't it'. 13 looks a little trickier, but you do the same: take the auxiliary verb 'must' and then negate it: 'mustn't he'. 

I can't think of a way that 4 could sound natural to me, but assuming this is from some textbook, I suppose the answer it suggests is 'wasn't it'. But this is very awkward sounding. I wouldn't include this sentence in an exercise on question tags.

By the way, please let us know what you think the answers are. It will help us explain our answers better.

Hope this helps. 

Best wishes,
Kirk
LearnEnglish team

Submitted by SM JAKIRUL ISLAM on Sun, 31/03/2024 - 05:40

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Hello, Sir!
I wanted to know which tag is correct.

Not only Rima but also Rudra went there, .............?

(a) did he?

(b) didn't he?

(c) did they?

(d) didn't they?

I like you loved travelling, ................?

(a) didn't you?

(b) didn't I?

(c) don't we?

Thanking you again.