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

Do you need to improve your English grammar?
Join thousands of learners from around the world who are improving their English grammar with our online courses.
Average: 4.2 (5 votes)

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

Permalink

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

Permalink

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

Permalink

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

Permalink

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