2. Question Tags
Question tags are the short questions that we put on the end of sentences – particularly in spoken English. There are many different question tags but the rules are not difficult to learn.
If the main part of the sentence is positive, the question tag is negative
- He’s a doctor, isn’t he?
- You work in a bank, don’t you?
… and if the main part of the sentence is negative, the question tag is positive.
- You haven’t met him, have you?
- She isn’t coming, is she?
ii) With Auxiliary Verbs
The question tag uses the same verb as the main part of the sentence. If this is an auxiliary verb (‘have’, ‘be’) then the question tag is made with the auxiliary verb.
- They’ve gone away for a few days, haven’t they?
- They weren’t here, were they?
- He had met him before, hadn’t he?
- This isn’t working, is it?
iii) Without Auxiliary Verbs
If the main part of the sentence doesn’t have an auxiliary verb, the question tag uses an appropriate form of ‘do’.
- I said that, didn’t I?
- You don’t recognise me, do you?
- She eats meat, doesn’t she?
Now here come the questions you NEED to watch out for, because they WILL be deliberately tricky!
iv) With Modal Verbs:
Using modal verbs like will and would can be tricky in a Question Tag question. How so?
e.g. You’d like an apple, _____________?
The answer for the above is ‘wouldn’t you’…but many students will make a mistake because they forget that the ‘d’ with ‘you’d’ is a contraction for ‘would’.
e.g. You’ll come with me, _____________?
The answer for the above is ‘won’t you’…but many students will make a mistake because, you may not believe me, but it is absolutely true (in my experience), MANY students do not know that the negative for ‘will’ is ‘won’t’! (they often think it is ‘wouldn’t)
v) Frequency adverbs that are negative
Words like ‘hardly’, ‘scarcely’, ‘never’ and ‘rarely’ are already in the negative. Some students may not know this and make the mistake of thinking they are positive.
e.g. He hardly exercises, ____________?
The answer would be ‘does he’, because ‘hardly’ means ‘almost never’, or ‘doesn’t exercise much’.
vi) With ‘I am’
Be careful with question tags with sentences that start ‘I am’. The question tag for ‘I am’ is ‘aren’t I?’
- I’m the fastest, aren’t I?
Practice doing those tough Question Tag questions, and you won’t ever get them wrong again…will you??