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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

Hello Karan Narang,

It is correct to use aren't I as the question tag like this. The reason we use this, I think, is that it is very hard to pronounce amn't I and so the form has shifted over time to one which is easier to say. Interestingly, if you do not use the contraction then am is still the correct form:

I am going to get an email, aren't I? [correct]

I am going to get an email, am I not? [correct - very formal]

I am going to get an email, amn't I? [incorrect]

I am going to get an email, are I not? [incorrect]

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello. Please help me with this sentence. ''There were few women at the gathering'' What's the correct tag? Is it ''There were few women at the gathering, weren't there?'' Or ''There were few women at the gathering, were there?'' Does the word ''few'' suggest a negation?

Hello Alain Gustave,

You could use either weren't there or were there as a tag here.

The difference is that weren't there indicates that the speaker expects confirmation. In a sense, it is not a real question but rather a rhetorical device. By contrast, were there shows that the speaker is either surprised and is asking if the information is really true, or else is not sure and wants to get an answer.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

What is the Question tag to be used for the sentence ->Let's not play chess
shan't we? or shall we?

Hello abymonly,

The correct form here is shall we.

When the verb form in the main clause is let's, the tag is formed with shall not shan't.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Sir it means for sentences begin with Let's(Let us) either it is positive or negative ,the tag is shall we?

Hello again abymonly,

Yes, that's correct:

Let's stay a while longer, shall we?

However, note that the use of shall we as a tag is generally quite unusual. It's grammatically possible, but it is disappearing from English slowly and can sound very formal or old-fashioned.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

What's the question tag for "Let's go to the cinema this evening"?

Hello Daria_Dana_off,

'shall we' is usually used as a question tag in such circumstances.

In the US, although people would understand this, they'd probably find this use of 'shall' a bit strange. There I expect people would say something like 'Let's go to the movies this evening, OK?'

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Is it correct to use 'no' that is equivalent to either right ! OR question tag

For example:

Maybe you had a dream. No?
The election is next week, no?

equivalent sentences
Maybe you had a dream. Hadn't you?
The election is next week, right

I know definitely using 'no' for this kind of sentences is not right
but I've found this kind of usage on some youtube videos

so how acceptable is it to use ''no'' !

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