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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

Language level

Intermediate: B1
Upper intermediate: B2

Comments

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

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

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

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! =)

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

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?'

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