Question Tags in English
Question tags are frequently used in spoken English; they turn a statement into a question. They are often used for checking information that we think we know is true.
If the main clause has an auxiliary verb in it (for example: be or have), you use the same verb in the tag question and a subject pronoun (for example: I, you, she).
Usually if the main clause is positive, the question tag is negative, and if the main clause is negative, the question tag is positive.
- positive statement → question tag negative → You are Susan, aren’t you?
- negative statement → question tag positive → She isn’t a friend, is she?
3.1. with auxiliaries
- You‘ve got a ticket, haven’t you?*
- You can’t swim, can you?
- She will help, won’t she?*
- They are married, aren’t they?*
* Negative question tags are usually contracted: It‘s hot today, isn’t it (not ‘
is it not‘)
3.2. without auxiliaries (don’t, doesn’t, didn’t)
If there is no auxiliary verb use do / does / did (just as when you make a normal question).
- They like to read comics, don’t they?
- She works in a bank, doesn’t she?
- She taught English, didn’t she?
Questions tags can be used to keep a conversation going. You can agree or refuse to a sentence with a question tag.
- Affirmative sentence: She is a teacher, isn’t she?
- Negative sentence: She isn’t a teacher, is she?
Possible answers are Yes or No. If you use Yes, do not use contracted forms. If you use No, contracted form are possible.
- Yes, she is.
- No, she is not. or No, she isn’t. or No, she‘s not.
4. Special points
4.1. Although the negative word not is not in the sentence, the sentence can be negative. Then we use the positive question tag.
4.2. If have is a main verb in the sentence and refers to states, there are two possible sentences – We have time, _____?
- We have time, haven’t we? mainly British English
- We have time, don’t we? mainly American English
4.3. Use will/would with imperatives (Simple Present).
- Shut the door, will you?
- Shut the door, would you?
- Don’t look, will you?
4.4. We use won’t with a polite request.
- Shut the door, won’t you?
4.5. We use shall after Let’s.
4.6. Auxiliary must
We must finish this tonight, mustn’t we?
- Yes, we must.
- No, we needn’t.
4.7. Personal pronoun I
I am late, aren’t I?
This form is commonly used. It is because there is no contracted form for am + not (amn’t I). Grammatically correct would be: am I not. This is only used in very formal situations.