Question tags (or Tag questions) are short questions used at the end of sentences. They are very common among the native speakers of the English language. Question tags are not the questions but are used to ask for agreement or confirmation. They are used to mean something like “Is that right?” or “Do you agree?”
Let us observe the following sentences to understand what the question tags are and how we use them:
- I have a car, haven’t I?
- I am not a doctor, am I?
- We are students, aren’t we?
- We are not players, are we?
- You go there, don’t you?
- You do not speak like that, do you?
- He is my cousin, isn’t he?
- He does not go for a walk regularly, does he?
In the above examples, it is clear that there are two parts in every sentence. The first part of the sentence is a statement and the second part is a tag question.
One more thing, what we need to observe here is that a positive sentence is followed by a negative question tag and a negative sentence is followed by a positive question tag.
Points to focus on:
- Question tags are used to ask for confirmation.
- A positive statement takes a negative tag question.
- A negative sentence takes a positive tag question.
- Question tags are framed based on subject and verb in a sentence.
- We use only auxiliary verbs and personal pronouns (I, we, you, he, she, it, and they) to form question tags.
- If the sentence has an auxiliary verb in it, we use the same for the question tag.
- If there is no auxiliary verb in the sentence (present and past simple), we use “do, does or did” in the question tag.
- Negative question tags are normally contracted like “isn’t? aren’t?”.
- For “I am”, in a sentence, the question tag always is “aren’t I?”
Now, let us see the differences between questions and question tags.
|They are complete sentences.||They are short forms used at the end of the sentences.|
|They are used to know something.||They are used to confirm something.|
|They are used in spoken and written English||They are generally used in spoken English|
|They are used independently.||They depend on the main sentence.|
|They are used formally.||They are used informally.|
Contracted forms with auxiliary verb + not:
Do + not = Don’t
Does + not = Doesn’t
Did + not = Didn’t
Am + not = Aren’t (not amn’t)
Is + not = Isn’t
Are + not = Aren’t
Was + not = Wasn’t
Were + not = Weren’t
Has + not = Hasn’t
Have + not = Haven’t
Had + not = Hadn’t
Shall + not = Shan’t
Should + not = Shouldn’t
Will + not = Won’t
Would + not = Wouldn’t
Can + not = Can’t
Could + not = Couldn’t
May + not = Mayn’t
Might + not = Mightn’t
Must + not = Mustn’t
Ought + not = Oughtn’t
Used + not = Usedn’t
Need + not = Needn’t
Dare + not = Daren’t
Question Tags Rules:
If the sentence contains a ‘be’ form in the verb, it can be repeated in the question tag. (am, is, are, was, were)
|Positive Statement||Negative Question Tag|
|I am a principal||aren’t I?|
|We are all participating in the event||aren’t we?|
|You are trustworthy||aren’t you?|
|He is industrious||isn’t he?|
|It was done again||wasn’t it?|
|They are going abroad||aren’t they?|
|Negative Statement||Positive Question Tag|
|I am not a teacher||am I?|
|We are not watching TV||are we?|
|You are not intelligent||are you?|
|She is not a professor||is she?|
|It is a not good phone||is it?|
|They are not doing anything||are they?|
If the sentence contains modal verbs in the verb, they are repeated in the question tag. (shall, should, will, would, may, might, can, could, might and must)
|Positive Statement||Negative Question Tag|
|She can do that job||can’t she?|
|I could help you||couldn’t I?|
|We shall play this game||shan’t we?|
|Krishna will write the exam||won’t he?|
|She must work very hard||mustn’t she?|
|He should read well||shouldn’t he?|
|They would bring all the things||wouldn’t they?|
|Negative Statement||Positive Question Tag|
|We can not attend the function||can we?|
|My friend will not send this photo||won’t he/she?|
|They should not go there||should they?|
|We shall go to Hyderabad||shall we?|
|I shall attend the interview||shall I?|
|You must not ask him||must you?|
|They might not win the race||might they?|
If the sentence contains ‘semi-modal verbs’ in the verb, the same or sometimes ‘do’ form is used in the question tag. (used to, dare, need, ought to )
- She used to wake up early, didn’t she?
- She used to wake up early, usedn’t she? (used rarely)
- They used not to quarrel with each other, did they?
- They usedn’t to quarrel with each other, used they? (used rarely)
Dare and Need: (As Semi Modals)
As semi-modals, generally, they are used in negative ways like ‘dare not’ or ‘daren’t’ and ‘need not’ or ‘needn’t’. So we use a positive question tag here.
- She dare not go out in the dark, dare she?
- I dare not advise you, dare I?
- You daren’t speak like that, dare you?
- They daren’t open the shops, dare they?
- He need not work hard, need he?
- We need not help the rich, need we?
- I needn’t tell you whatever asked, need I?
- You needn’t explain to me that, need you?
Dare and Need: (Main Verbs)
If ‘dare’ and ‘need’ are used as main verbs in a sentence, any auxiliary verb is used in the question tag.
- I don’t dare to go there, do I?
- We will dare to write a letter to her, will we?
- He doesn’t dare to visit the college, does he?
- She dared to take part in the event, didn’t she?
- You don’t dare to drive this car, do you?
- She did not dare to vote for him, did she?
- They have dared to telecast the news, haven’t they?
- They do not need any help, do they?
- He did not need to write the exam again, did he?
- He will need our help, won’t he?
- She needs our support, doesn’t she?
- He does not need any money right now, does he?
- They might need to book another slot, mightn’t they?
- He did not need to visit the place, did he?
- He ought to have informed me about this, oughtn’t he?
- I ought to attend all the classes, oughtn’t I
- She ought not to have behaved like that, ought she?
In modern English grammar, ‘ought’ tag questions are not commonly used for the difficulty of using oughtn’t. So, ‘should’ is used in place of ‘Ought’.
- I ought to attend all the classes, shouldn’t I?
- She ought not to have behaved like that, should she?
If the sentence contains ‘have’ forms as a main verb (not as an auxiliary verb), we use either the ‘have’ or ‘do’ form in the question tag.
Note: “do” is preferred in American English.
- My friend has two cars, hasn’t he?
- My friend has two cars, doesn’t he?
- She has very good knowledge of grammar, hasn’t she?
- She has very good knowledge of grammar, doesn’t she?
- You haven’t a wristwatch, have you?
- You haven’t a wristwatch, do you?
- They do not have a big house in the city, have they?
- They do not have a big house in the city, do they?
If the sentence contains ‘Have to’ and ‘had to’, they are considered Simple Present and Simple Past respectively. So we use do/does/did in the question tag.
- He has to do regular exercise, doesn’t he?
- They don’t have to attend the classes, do they?
- We had to have practised it before, didn’t we?
- They didn’t have to go on a long ride, did they?
If the sentence contains only the main verb without any auxiliaries, we use do/does – don’t / doesn’t? in Simple Present Tense and did/didn’t? in the Simple Past Tense when we frame question tags to such sentences.
- They want to join the club, don’t they?
- You don’t do such things again, do you?
- Ricky wants his bike back, doesn’t he?
- Pragati works in this school, doesn’t she?
- You all wanted to go on a picnic, didn’t you?
- Renu did not sing this song, did she?
- He didn’t attend any class, did he?
- My friend does not like this idea, does he/she?
If the sentence contains negative words such as – no, not, never, none, no one, nobody, nothing, neither, few, little, hardly, hardly ever, rarely, scarcely, seldom,….etc, we use positive question tags.
- We have no class today, have we?
- No one knows much about him, do they?
- They are doing nothing, are they?
- A barking dog seldom bites, does he?
- Nothing was informed to me, was it?
- Few students attended the class, were they?
- Neither of you went there, did you?
- I do not have any money, do I?
- Snakes are rarely seen in this area, are they?
- Nobody preferred to go there, did they?
If the sentence is an affirmative imperative, we use either affirmative- ‘will you?’ or negative – ‘won’t you?’ in the question tag.
- Enter his name in the register, will you?
- Enter his name in the register, won’t you?
- Please attend the conference, will you?
- Please attend the conference, won’t you?
- Kindly help the poor, will you?
- Kindly help the poor, won’t you?
Note: With a polite request in imperative, we use ‘won’t’ you? in the question tag.
- Open the window, won’t you?
- Bring me a piece of chalk, won’t you?
If the sentence is a negative imperative, we use an affirmative- ‘will you?’ in the question tag.
- Don’t sit here for a long time, will you?
- Don’t keep muddy things in your packets, will you?
- Don’t tell me such scary stories, will you?
- Don’t make a fool of yourself, will you?
- Don’t make a noise, will you?
If the sentence is imperative and begins with ‘Let us’ or ‘Let’s’, it denotes ‘proposal’ or ‘suggestion’. So we use the question tag – ‘shall we?’.
- Let us have our dinner, shall we?
- Let us watch TV, shall we?
- Let us finish our work first, shall we?
- Let’s have a family party, shall we?
- Let’s summarise the points, shall we?
If the sentence is imperative and begins with ‘Let me, ‘Let him’, ‘Let her’, ‘Let them’, ‘Let Ricky’, we use ‘will you?’ in the question tag.
- Let her start her own business, will you?
- Let him attend all the classes, will you?
- Let them submit their projects, will you?
- Let Ricky express his opinion, will you?
If the sentence contains some introductory phrases like ‘I am sure, I suspect, I suppose, I am afraid, I think, I believe, it appears that, it seems that, it looks as if, as far as I remember, as far as I can see’ etc., we frame the question tag based on the subject and verb of the sentence but not based on these expressions. Moreover, the negative sense is considered from these expressions.
- I think anyone can attend these classes, will they?
- I don’t think he can do that job, can he?
- I hope he will come here tomorrow, will he?
- I hope she will not reject my offer, won’t she?
- It appears that they are watching TV, aren’t they?
- I suppose it depends on him, doesn’t it?
- I don’t suppose he wanted to help me, did he?
- I don’t believe he has written all the exams, has he?
How do we use the subject in the question tags:
The selection of the subject while framing the question tag is also an important one. Here are some useful tips explained for avoiding any kind of confusion.
If the subject of the sentence contains personal pronouns (I, we, you, he, she, it, they), the same personal pronouns are used in the question tags.
- I do not know anything, do I?
- We have not done our work, have we?
- You should implement these rules, shouldn’t you?
- He reads novels, doesn’t he?
- They admitted their mistake, didn’t they?
If the subject of a sentence contains a noun, we use their related personal pronouns in the question tags.
- Snehith and Sandesh are brothers, aren’t they?
- Ricky is a hardworking student, isn’t he?
- Dr.Tamilisai is the governor of Telangana, isn’t she?
- Mobiles are not a part of my world, are they?
If the subject of the sentence contains a ‘there + be form’ combination, we use the pronoun “there” in the question tag.
- There are four boys in the class, aren’t there?
- There will not be any excuses, will there?
- There is a difficult question, isn’t there?
- There wasn’t any fun in the show, was there?
Some subjects are changed in the question tag as:
|The Subject of a Sentence||The Subject of a Question Tag|
|everything, something, anything,
nothing, this, that
- One must love one’s country, mustn’t one?
- Nothing had happened there, hadn’t it?
- Something is better than nothing, isn’t it?
- This is an excellent show, isn’t it?
- That wasn’t a good collection, was it?
- Those were important days, weren’t they?
- These are not acceptable terms, are they?
If these words (one, this/that, these/those) are used before a noun as adjectives, we use the related personal pronouns of the nouns in the question tags.
- One boy can answer me, can’t he?
- This teacher helped me in the exams, didn’t he/she?
- This mobile is not a good one, is it?
- That problem has solved all the problems, hasn’t it?
- These answers are genuine, aren’t they?
- Those questions were not very difficult, were they?
If the subject of a sentence contains indefinite pronouns such as somebody, someone, everybody, everyone, anybody, anyone, nobody, no one, and neither …. we use the pronoun “they” in the question tag.
- Somebody lost the purse, didn’t they?
- Everybody was willing to take part in this, weren’t they?
- Nobody wants to apply for the job, do they?
- Neither is eligible for the job, are they?
If the phrases such as – all of us, all of you, all of them, none of us, none of you, none of them, one of us, one of you, one of them, any one of us, any one of you, some of us, some of you, some of them, most of us, most of you, most of them, neither of us, neither of you, either of you, either of us – are the subjects of a sentence; we use the personal pronouns- ‘we’, ‘you’ and ‘they’ in the question tags.
- Either of us can go there, can’t we?
- Neither of you is eligible for the post, are you?
- None of them has agreed to your idea, have they?
- All of us are invited to attend the event, aren’t we?
- All of you should sit in the class, shouldn’t you?
- All of them might not be informed about this, might they?
- Most of us have already visited this place, haven’t we?
- Every one of them is singing the same song, aren’t they?
Intonation and meaning:
When we don’t know the answer, we use a rising intonation with the question tag. It is a real question.
- You know the secret, don’t you? ↗
- She did not reserve the seats here, did she? ↗
When we know the answer, we use a falling intonation with the tag. It is just to confirm the information.
- This dish is tasty, isn’t it? ↘
- He did not attend the classes yesterday, did he?↘
Universal tags: right, yeah
In informal situations, we sometimes replace the question tags with ‘right’ and ‘yeah’.
A: So, you’re not attending the programme, right? (are you?)
B: No, I’ve some urgent work. Sorry.
A: Our friend will be here soon, yeah? (won’t he?)
B: Yeah. That’s what he said.
- What is a Verb in English?
- Primary Auxiliary Verbs
- Modal Auxiliary Verbs
- Semi-Modal Auxiliary Verbs
- Regular and Irregular Verbs
- Transitive and Intransitive Verbs
- Action, Stative, and Linking Verbs
- Finite and Non-finite Verbs
- Verb Mood
- Verbs of Incomplete Predication
- Subject-Verb Agreement
Also, download the question tags PDF