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 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 :)
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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
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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?

Hello Raksha Jha,

Could you please give us a specific example?

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

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?
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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.
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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.
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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?
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Submitted by Peter M. on Tue, 01/12/2020 - 08:29

In reply to by Stellaaa

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Hello Stellaaa,

Neither sentence is correct, I'm afraid. We use tag questions after affirmative sentences, not after questions. The correct forms would be:

You forgot your umbrella, didn't you?

You didn't forget your umbrella, did you?

In the first sentence, the speaker is sure that the other person forgot their umbrella. The question is not really asking for information, but for confirmation.

In the second question, the speaker is either not sure that the other person forgot their umbrella or is very surprised about it. The question suggests us that the speaker cannot believe that this is the situation.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by rudresh007 on Fri, 27/11/2020 - 10:12

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Why should we add Question tags

Hi rudresh007,

Question tags are mainly used in speaking. If you say something and you want someone to confirm or disagree with it, you can add a question tag to your statement. The question tag invites the listener to respond. They're really useful :)

Best wishes,

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Ataur Rahman on Sun, 22/11/2020 - 14:21

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Yes. That makes sense. Many many thanks for your kind answer.

Submitted by Ataur Rahman on Fri, 20/11/2020 - 14:35

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What's about Tag-question with Complex and Compound Sentences?

Hi Ataur Rahman,

The answer is a bit complicated! Let's take an example complex-compound sentence.

  • You love chocolate and you eat it every day, even though it’s not healthy

 

How we make the tag question depends on which part the tag refers to. We can say this:

  • You love chocolate and you eat it every day, even though it’s not healthy, is it? (the tag refers to 'it's not healthy')

 

If we want the tag to refer to 'You love chocolate' or 'you eat it every day', we should reorganise the sentence to keep the tag next to that part, so that the meaning is clear. So:

  • Even though chocolate’s not healthy, you love it and you eat it every day, don't you? (the tag refers to 'you eat it every day')
  • You eat chocolate every day, even though it’s not healthy, and you love it, don't you? (the tag refers to 'you love it')

 

Does that make sense? If you see any examples of this that you'd like to discuss, feel free to post them here.

Best wishes,

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Ataur Rahman on Thu, 12/11/2020 - 10:28

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What's about Tag-question after Compound Sentence and Complex Sentence?

Hi Ataur Rahman,

You can use a question tag in compound or complex sentences, but you need to make sure that it's clear to the reader or listener what the question tag refers to. It's harder to do that with long sentences.

For example:

-- Your sister lives in Spain because her company moved there, doesn't she?

In this sentence, the question tag is separated from the thing it refers to ('Your sister lives') by other information, so it's hard to understand. We can rephrase the sentence like this:

-- As your sister's company moved to Spain, she lives there now, doesn't she?

That keeps the question tag close to what it refers to. In this way, you can phrase your sentence according to what part of it you want the question tag to focus on.

-- He can't drive and you can't either, can you? (focuses on 'you can't drive')
-- You can't drive and he can't either, can he? (focuses on 'he can't drive')

Does that make sense?

Best wishes,

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Dear Jonathan, Thanks for your feedback. You are experienced and knowledgeable. Your answer made me satisfied. But I think, the Tag question about Compound Sentence - has been silently ignored here. Please, try to clear it.

Hi Ataur Rahman,

OK, I'm glad the answer helped. About compound sentences, I would give a similar explanation. Although compound sentences have a different structure to complex sentences, they are similar since both types have two parts. It's important to clarify which part the question tag relates to, and I suggest putting that part at the end of the sentence. My last two examples above (He/You can't drive ...) are compound sentences, and here are some more examples:

  • Anyone can take the test, and most people do, don't they? ('they' refers to 'most people')
  • Most people take the test, and anyone can take it, can't they? ('they' refers to 'anyone')
  • Andy agrees but Sara disagrees, doesn't she?
  • Sara disagrees but Andy agrees, doesn't he?
  • A storm is coming; this is bad news, isn't it? ('it' refers to 'This')
  • This is bad news: a storm is coming, isn't it? ('it' refers to 'a storm')

If you want to use the question tag to refer to the whole sentence, including both parts, right? or isn't that right? are useful options (especially in speaking).

  • Sara disagrees but Andy agrees, right?
  • Sara disagrees but Andy agrees, isn't that right?

I hope this covers what you wanted to know. Please let us know if you have other questions about it.

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Dear Jonathan, Thanks for your feedback. So, it is clear that - in the case of Compound or Complex Sentenc, we should follow the "Principle of Proximity" so that the desired/targeted part of the sentence is directly followed by the tag.

Hi Ataur Rahman,

Yes :) That's right.

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Zamra on Sat, 07/11/2020 - 15:39

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I'm sure it will great fun, won't it be? Is this right?

Hello Zamra,

That's almost correct, but you need to remove the last 'be':

I'm sure it will be great fun, won't it?

In question tags we use only the auxiliary verb (here: will > won't), not the main verb (here: be).

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Luz Hidalgo on Tue, 27/10/2020 - 04:33

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Hi guys, Could you please help me with this tag? I'm aware that if the statement is negative, I must write a possitive question tag. But in this case, what it puzzles me is the use of the auxiliary: You never have eggs and toast for breakfast, do you? I'm not sure if using the auxiliary "do" is correct or not because in this sentence we have the verb "have". My interpretation would be that "have" here is used as a verb and not as an auxiliary, am I right? Thanks a lot for your help!! Regards from México
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Submitted by Peter M. on Tue, 27/10/2020 - 07:44

In reply to by Luz Hidalgo

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Hi Luz Hidalgo,

The correct tag here is 'do you', as you say.

In this sentence, never marks the sentence as negative, and requires a positive tag. As you say, have is a main verb here.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Thanks a lot for your support!!! I'm a big fan of you guys! =)

Submitted by Tega on Mon, 12/10/2020 - 17:51

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I know you don't answer questions but I hope you can find a way around this for me. I'm from an english-speaking country and I'm pretty good with grammar and question tags. But this question puzzled me because the subject involved was an indefinite pronoun. The question says 'no one is there to reply,___? It confuses me because i don't know the right pronoun to use for an indefinite one. I assumed they for a second but even if it was right it would require me changing the verb. So any thoughts?

Hello Tega,

Your first instinct was correct! In this cotnext we use 'they' and a different auxiliary in the tag. It's a good example of the use of they for non-gendered/unidentified singular.

No-one is there to reply, are they?

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by rajupunchayil on Mon, 12/10/2020 - 17:45

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Hi! What is the question tag for the following sentence: We won't have to work tomorrow. My answer is 'should we?' Is it correct? Also, 'We won't work tomorrow, will we?' Or is it 'shall we?'