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9-L) Question Tags (Linguaspectrum) UNIT 9 lesson L

A lesson about question tags: form and usage.

From the most basic explanations going up to the more detailed ones.

We also have activities to practise the basics of the question tags and also activities to master its more advanced uses too.

QUESTION TAGS


A question tag is a small question that comes at the end of the sentence.

We use question tags in spoken English and in informal writing.

Question tags are expressions like: are you? or aren't you?

Question tags have an auxiliary verb or a non-auxiliary verb, be or have, plus pronoun subject.

They are added to the end of the sentence.

You're learning a lot already, aren't you?
You're not getting bored, are you?


We use question tags to check whether something is true.

We use question tags to ask the listener to agree with what we've said.

We use question tags at the end of affirmative sentences.

This is a tawny owl, isn't it?

We use question tags at the end of negative sentences.

You're not a tawny owl, are you?


We do not use question tags at the end of questions.

Is this an owl?

Why do we use question tags?

We use question tags to check whether something is true.

That's your owl, isn't it?
That's not your owl, is it?


We use question tags to ask the listener to agree with what we've said.

She's a very large owl, isn't she?
That's not very nice, is it?




NEGATIVE WITH POSITIVE - POSITIVE WITH NEGATIVE


We normally put a negative question tag after a positive sentence.

We normally put a positive question tag after a negative sentence.

That's a Scarlet Pimple, isn't it?
That's not an orchid, is it?


QUESTION TAGS WITH AUXILIARY VERBS

Auxiliary verbs are: be, do, have, can, could, may, might, shall, should,  will, would, must.

When the main sentence contains an auxiliary verb, or the non-auxiliary form of be, we repeat the auxiliary verb in the question tag.

We should have come on a horse, shouldn't we?
You haven't any more room up there, have you?
They can't have caught the thief, can they?


QUESTION TAGS WITHOUT AUXILIARY VERBS

When the main sentence does not contain an auxiliary verb the question tag uses the verb do.

You know inspector Stanford, don't you?
Yes, that idiot crashed this car, didn't he?


 
QUESTION TAGS WITH NEGATIVE VERBS
 
Negative words include no, never, nobody, hardly, scarcely, little, nothing.

With negative words we use non-negative question tags.

There've been no complaints about the sheep, have there?
There's little chance of me getting on that ride, is there?

 

QUESTION TAGS AFTER IMPERATIVES

Common question tags after imperatives are: will you?, would you?, can you?, could you?

Help us get this boat in the water, will you?
Watch the rope doesn't break, would you?
Stop that noise, can you?


More emphatic are can't you? and won't you?

Oh, shut up, can't you?
Sit down, won't you?


If the imperative is negative, we use will you?

Don't tell him I told you, will you?
 

LET'S

"Let's" means "Let us".

Let's is a way of making suggestions.

Let's go to Cambridge at the weekend.

If we use a question tag after let's, we use shall we?

Let's go to Cambridge at the weekend, shall we?


THERE

There can be a subject in question tags.

There's some cheese in the fridge, isn't there?

There aren't any rolls, are there?


NOTHING, EVERYTHING, ANYTHING, SOMETHING

If the subject of the sentence is nothing, everything, something, anything, we use 'it' in the question tag.

Something's wrong isn't it?
Nothing's wrong, is it?
Everything's all right, isn't it?
Anything can happen, can't it?



NOBODY, SOMEBODY, ANYBODY, EVERYBODY

If the subject of the sentence is nobody, somebody, anybody, everybody, we use 'they' in the question tag.

Nobody's going to bail us out, are they?
Anybody can see it's a Titian, can't they?
Everybody loves ice-cream, don't they?


POSITIVE WITH POSITIVE

We can use a positive question tag after a positive sentence.

We do this when we want to express a reaction like interest, concern or surprise.

So you make wedding cakes, do you? How very interesting!
He's lost all his money, has he? What a tragedy!
He thinks he's a good driver, does he?


We can also use positive with positive to pose questions.

In the main sentence we make our guess, and we use the tag question to check.

This is the train to York, is it?

 
INTONATION AND MEANING

If the question tag is a real question, we use a rising intonation.

In a real question we are interested in knowing something and are not sure of the answer.

The film starts at nine, doesn't it?

If the question tag is not a real question, we use a falling intonation.

Question tags that are not real questions are used when we are already sure of the answer.

It's a lovely morning, isn't it?

Question Tags
 
Question Tags: normal and special cases
 
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