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Question tags are the short questions that we put on the end of sentences – particularly in spoken English. There are lots of 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?
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?
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?
With modal verbs
If there is a modal verb in the main part of the sentence the question tag uses the same modal verb.
- They couldn’t hear me, could they?
- You won’t tell anyone, will you?
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?
Question tags can either be ‘real’ questions where you want to know the answer or simply asking for agreement when we already know the answer.
If the question tag is a real question we use rising intonation. Our tone of voice rises.
If we already know the answer we use falling intonation. Our tone of voice falls.