Tag Questions

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Tag Questions

These are questions formed by adding a question as a tag to a declarative statement. The tag is usually separated from the statement with a comma

How to Form Tag Question

Tag questions are formed by using an auxiliary verb, inverted with the subject which is usually a personal pronoun, or in some rare cases the adverb ‘there’.

  1. If the statement is positive, a negative tag is used.

Usage Examples

a. We are serious, aren’t we?
b. He could do it, couldn’t he?
c. He has money, hasn’t he?

  1. If the statement is negative, a positive tag is required.

Usage Examples

a. They don’t like mangoes, do they?
b. She was not present at the meeting, was she?
c. It cannot eat all the food, can it?

  1. If the subject of the statement is not a personal pronoun, use a personal pronoun that agrees in number, case, gender and person with the antecedent (subject) in the question tag.

Usage Examples

a. The man cannot speak English, can he?
b. The children are very stubborn, aren’t they?
c. The building is old, isn’t it?

  1. If a principal or lexical verb is used in the statement without any auxiliary verb, the appropriate form of the auxiliary verb DO, which agrees in number and tense with the lexical verb in the statement is used in the question tag.

Usage Examples

a. Lionel Messi plays for Argentina, doesn’t he?
The verb in the statement is, PLAYS, which is in the simple present tense, and also 3rd person singular form, so the form of DO that will agree with PLAYS is DOES, that’s why it is used in the tag.

b. She came yesterday, didn’t she?

c. The bachelor learnt very hard, didn’t he?

  1. If the statement contains a word with a negative meaning, i.e. semi-negators, e.g. never, hardly, scarcely, rarely etc, the question tag must be positive.

Usage Examples

a. They have never done any serious work, have they?

b. The boys hardly buy items for their parents, do they?

c. The heroine scarcely enjoys in tragic stories, does she?

  1. If the statement is a complex sentence, the tag question should reflect the subject and the verb of the independent clause.

Usage Examples

a. The man said that the children are lazy, didn’t he?
b. When it was raining, the boys were playing, weren’t they?
c. The woman cried when the man slapped her, didn’t she?

EXCEPTION
If the verb in the main or independent clause is; suppose, assume, think, guess, the tag should reflect the subject and the verb of the subordinate or dependent clause.

Usage Examples

a. The man thinks that the boys are not lazy, are they?
b. I assume they will marry next year, won’t they?
c. I guess she has not done the work, has she?

  1. If the statement contains the modal auxiliary USED TO, the question tag should use the verb DID.

USAGE EXAMPLES

a. We used to play volleyball, didn’t we?
b. John used not to like Calculus in school, did he?
c. The boys used to steal in school, didn’t they?

  1. If the subject of the statement is an indefinite pronoun that represents humans, e.g. everyone, everybody, someone, somebody, etc, the subject of the tag should be THEY. In such a case, the appropriate form of the verb with regards to number should be used in the tag questions.

Usage Examples

a. Everybody was present at the meeting, weren’t they?
b. Nobody came to school, did they?
c. Somebody stole my pen, didn’t they?

REASON: The reason why THEY is used in contexts like this is to ensure GENDER NEUTRALITY. Someone could be a male or a female. THEY will cater for this neutrality, that’s why we have the SINGULAR THEY.

  1. If the subject of the statement is an indefinite pronoun which represents non-human nouns, e.g. something, anything, everything, nothing etc, the subject of the tag should be IT.

Usage Examples

a. Nothing is impossible, is it?
b. Something happened last week, didn’t it?
c. Everything has its negative effects, hasn’t it?

  1. If the statement begins in LET’S, the tag should be, SHALL WE.

Usage Examples

a. Let’s do the work, shall we?
b. Let’s go for dinner, shall we?

  1. When the subject of the statement is THERE, the word THERE must reflect as the subject of the tag.

Usage Examples

a. There is something wrong with her attitude, isn’t there?
b. There was no problem with your answer, was there?
c. There has not been any change in the time, has there?

  1. When the subject of the statement is THIS, the pronoun IT must be used in the question tag as the subject.

Usage Examples

a. This is what I expected, isn’t it?
b. This has been my favorite, hasn’t it?

  1. When the statement is positive and begins in I’M, the tag should be AREN’T I?

Usage Example

a. I’m a student, aren’t I?
b. I’m studying Linguistics, aren’t I?

Tags Used in Imperative Sentences

  1. When the statement is an imperative sentence that gives a command, the tag should be WILL YOU? or WON’T YOU?

Usage Examples

a. Stop talking! Will you? Won’t you?
b. Do not stop learning, will you?

  1. If the statement is an imperative sentence that makes an invitation, the tag should be WON’T YOU?

Usage Examples

a. Take a seat, won’t you?

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