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 (92 votes)
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Submitted by xadice on Fri, 31/03/2023 - 20:49

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Hello. Could you please tell me the correct answer?And also can you explain?
1.Let's go out for a walk,.........?
a.let we
b.shall we
2.I think he is from India,.....?
a.doesn't he
b.don't I
c.isn't he

Hi xadice,

For suggestions using let's, the right question tag is shall we? This reflects the meaning of let's (i.e., a suggestion), rather than the literal words.

For sentence 2, it should be isn't he?. There are two verbs in the sentence, I think and he is. This speaker probably wants to check or confirm the second one (he is from India), so the question tag should be based on that. 

It's possible that the speaker wants to check/confirm the first one (I think), but it seems not very likely because it is the speaker's own opinion. There's no clear reason why the speaker wants to check/confirm that.

Jonathan

LearnEnglish team

Submitted by asmika2005 on Fri, 24/03/2023 - 18:11

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can anyone help me tag these right?

I don't need to finish this today, do I? or need I?
I need to complete this work within two hours, Don’t I? or Needn’t I?
You need to see a doctor soon, Don't you? or Shouldn't you ? or Needn't you? or Isn't it?

Hi asmika2005,

The tags should be: (1) do I? (2) don't I? (3) don't you? (isn't it? is also OK)

It is grammatically possible to use the verb "need" in question tags, but only when "need" is a semi-modal verb, rather than a main verb. In the examples above, "need" is a main verb, because it is followed by "to" + verb, so the question tag should be made with "do" or "don't".

As a semi-modal verb, "need" is followed by a verb without "to", e.g. You needn't wear a suit. It is not a formal event. As a semi-modal, we can make question tags e.g. I needn't finish this today, need I? It is a correct structure but it is rather uncommonly used.

You may be interested to read this page from Cambridge Dictionary about "need". I hope that helps to answer your question.

Jonathan

LearnEnglish team

Submitted by misatran on Fri, 24/03/2023 - 04:30

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Hello, Could you help me with these sentences?
"This is her father, isn't it / isn't he?"

I'm quite confused with the sentences begin with this/that/these/those.
Thank you a lot for your help.

Hello misatran,

The correct tag is 'isn't it'. 

In this sentence, the question tag refers to the whole statement ('this is her father'), not the person ('her father'). This is why 'it' is used in the question tag. Notice that 'this' is used by itself; it doesn't go together with a noun.

In a sentence like 'That man is her father', 'that' modifies 'man', so we'd use 'he' in the question tag.

Hope this helps.

All the best,
Kirk
LearnEnglish team

And, for the statement....Nobody has called for me.....the question tag
should be......Has anybody?.......Again, Puritan's view...The last word...

Submitted by misatran on Wed, 08/03/2023 - 11:07

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Hello,

Are these two sentences correct or not?
1. She ought to finish it as soon as possible, oughtn't she?
2. I am not responsible for this, am I?

I am not sure about the correct question tags when the main verb is ought to.
And I know that when the main clause is 'I am', the question tag should be 'aren't I', but with 'I am not', do we use 'are I' or 'am I'?

Thank you so much for your help in advance.

Hello misatran,

The first sentence is correct. We use 'ought' or 'oughtn't' without 'to' in the question tag.

As far as I know, the second one is also correct. I couldn't find anything in the sources I checked about 'are I' vs 'am I' as the correct tag for an 'I am not' statement, but my sense as a native speaker says that both are OK. If I had to choose one, like you, I'd probably go with 'am I?'.

Sorry not to be able to give you a more definitive answer regarding the second one.

All the best,
Kirk
LearnEnglish team