Tags

Tags are short clauses that look like questions. They are generally used at the end of a clause to ask for a response from the listener. Let's learn more!

Intermediate
Tags in the English Grammar

What Are Tags?

Tags are short additions that look like either questions, statements, or imperatives that we add to a clause to get a response from the listener or check if the listener agrees with what we have said.

Tip!

Tags are very common in spoken English, but not in formal written English.

Tags: Form

We add tags to the end of a statement. If the verb of our sentence is the auxiliary verb be or have or a modal, then we use them as the verb in the tag.

Generally, if the first part of the sentence is positive, the tag verb will be negative, and vice versa.

She is really angry, isn't she?

You have met Hank, haven't you?

He can't sing, can he?

When the main verb is in the present simple or past simple tense, we make the tag using the auxiliary verb do.

He plays the piano, doesn't he?

You wanted to win, didn't you?

Tip!

In negative tags, the contracted form is normally used.

Tags: Types

There are different types of tags in spoken English:

  • Question tags
  • Statement tags
  • Imperative tags
  • Universal tags

Question Tags

Tag questions are like mini-questions that come at the end of a sentence. We use tag questions to invite a response from the listener. They are very common in spoken English.

Question Tags: Type 1

The basic structure of a tag question is:

  • positive statement + negative tag
  • negative statement + positive tag

He is an actor, isn't he?

You don't like ice cream, do you?

Negative Adverbs

Some adverbs like never, rarely, seldom, hardly, barely, and scarcely have a negative meaning. If they appear in a statement, the sense of the statement is negative, therefore, we should use a positive question tag.

He hardly knew his mom, did he?

She never wanted a car, did she?

Tag Questions: Type 2

The type 2 question tags consist of an affirmative main clause and an affirmative tag. We use type 2 question tags when we are not sure whether the answer is yes or no. The intonation is usually a rising tone.

You're Alan's brother, are you?

Exceptions

an example of using a question tag

  • If the verb of the main clause is am, then we should use the negative tag form aren't.

Well, I am here now, aren't I?

  • If the verb of the main clause is used to, then the tag verb will be did.

He used to go to our school, didn't he?

  • If the verb of the main clause is ought to, most commonly the tag is should.

He ought to call Mary, shouldn't he?

  • If the sentence begins with the verb phrase Let's, the tag verb will be shall we.

Let's go watch a movie, shall we?

  • If the main verb of the sentence is have got, the tag verb will be have.

He has got a car, hasn't he?

  • If the sentence begins with there is/are, the tag is also constructed with be + there.

There aren't any cookies left, are there?

  • If the sentence begins with That/This + be, the tag is constructed with be + it.

This is Sally's dog, isn't it?

Tag Questions: Intonation

The intonation of tag questions can either be rising or falling. Tag questions with rising intonation sound like real questions. But Tag questions with falling intonation sound more like statements that do not require a real response.

Rising Intonation: A Real Question

You don't know where my wallet is, do you?

Falling Intonation: Not a Real Question

It's a beautiful view, isn't it?

Statement Tags

Statement tags are used to put emphasis or reinforcement to an affirmative statement. Note that the tag should be affirmative, too. Statement Tags are very informal.

He was a great teacher, he was.

I'm tired of this, I am.

Imperative Tags

Imperative tags soften the tone of the imperative sentence. The verb in the tag is most commonly will but we can also use would, could, can, and won't.
We use 'won't' for invitations. We use 'can, can't, will, would' for orders.

Close the door, will you?

Wait here a moment, would you?

Universal Tags

As mentioned earlier, tags are used in normal English. However, there is another more informal way for question tags and that is using right, yes, yeah, and no in very informal situations instead of question tags.

He's not playing tonight, right?

You're Carla's sister, yeah?

Answering Question Tags

Normally, we answer a question tag:

  1. with just 'Yes' or 'No'
  2. by repeating the tag and reversing it

He doesn't work here, does he? Yes, he does.

They are your parents, aren't they? No, they're not. Or No, they aren't.

Review

A tag question is a question converted from a statement and is formed into an interrogative sentence. We mostly use tag questions to make a person agree with us. Remember there is always an auxiliary verb in tag sentences. There are four types of tags as follows:

  1. Question tags
  2. Statement tags
  3. Imperative tags
  4. Universal tags
positive statement negative tag
The baby is so cute, isn't he?
negative statement positive tag
He hasn't been in New York, has he?
positive statement positive tag
They never talked to you, did they?

Comments

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