Question tags rules in English
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Question tags (are you?, isn’t it?, don’t you?, etc…) are very common in English. A positive response is expected:
- It is beautiful, isn’t it?
When the sentence is affirmative, the question tag is negative: auxiliary + not + subject pronoun
This tag allows you to ask for confirmation:
- She can speak english, can’t she?
- He has written a book, hasn’t he?
In the present and in the past, there is no auxiliary in the affirmative statement, so we use the auxiliary of these two tenses: do and did.
- He looks young, doesn’t he?
- Paul sent you a message, didn’t he?
When the sentence is negative, the question tag is positive. We expect a negative response:
- “You haven’t finished your homework, have you?” “Not yet!”
- He doesn’t like bananas, does she?
- They haven’t arrived yet, have they?
With the verb be in the first person singular (I), the negative tag is formed with are and not am:
- I am tanned, arent’t I?
For imperative sentences, we use a positive tag with will:
- Open the door, will you?
- Don’t come in, will you?
⚠️ Question tags are very often used to ask for confirmation: their intonation is then descending, as in an affirmative sentence.
⚠️ You can have a question tag in an affirmative sentence to express a reaction (surprise, irony, solicitude). The intonation is then rising:
- You think you’re smart, do you?