Sociolinguistics

Tag questions

Features of Tag questions

Tag questions?

The “question tags” are small questions that are used to confirm or deepen a topic of interest to obtain more information about the person you were talking to.

The English language has particular grammatical structures, which are used almost exclusively in oral communication, which are intended to obtain a corroboration or an immediate refutation of what is being said by the listener.

These structures are called question tags , which translated into Spanish would be something like “question tag” ; Well, they work in terms of meaning equivalent to a ‘don’t they? or a ‘right?’ in Spanish. In all cases, the question tags appear in the sentence preceded by a comma .

Reasons why the Tag Questions are formulated:
1.- Get quick response on a topic.

2.- Reaffirm what was previously expressed.

3.- Know the opinion of the interlocutor.

Features of Tag questions

These question tags are always located by way of closing the sentence , and formally said sentence is not interrogative but affirmative or negative , that is, affirms something or denies something. In this way, the question tag only expresses the opposite of what has just been said , as giving the opportunity for the interlocutor to corroborate or deny what was said, as the case may be.

To construct these sentences with question tags it is necessary to know and handle English auxiliary verbs very well . As we know, fundamentally it is the verbs ‘to do’, ‘to be’ and ‘to have’ that contribute the auxiliary element that is incorporated into the question tag. 

These verbs are obviously conjugated in the person and the corresponding tense , and in turn appear affirmative or negative (the latter, adding the ‘not’) as required. Sometimes ‘can’ or its past ‘could’ (‘power’) also appears as part of question tags.

The most common auxiliaries are:

  • ‘is’
  • ‘are’
  • ‘A.M’
  • ‘was’
  • ‘were’  
  • ‘will’

All these corresponding to the verb ‘to be’ . Also common are  ‘have’ and ‘has’ (‘to have’) and ‘do / does’  and ‘did’ (‘to do’).

The construction of the question tag

The construction is simple: the sentence is analyzed and the corresponding auxiliary is applied in its opposite value , adding ‘not’ or removing it if it had it (it is also valid and in fact widely used in question tags the negative form apocopated ‘n’ t ‘).

What is sought is to ask if it happened, happens or will happen the opposite of what the sentence stated above . In a way, the question tag reveals the genuine doubt or anxiety on the part of the speaker to know immediately if he is right or not.

Other types of  question tags

There are two cases of question tags that deviate a bit from what has been explained:

  • Imperative sentences followed by the question ‘ will  + pronoun’, like who says in Spanish ‘will you do it?’ (In this case the other is expected to comply with the request).
  • They include the expression ‘let us + verb’ in the sense of inviting to do something in conjunction with others. In these last communicative situations, the structure ‘shall we’ is usually added as a question tag ?

Question tags examples

We see in the following list sentences with question tags :

  1. You’re from Madrid, aren’t you?
  2. He doesn’t speak French, does he?
  3. He should read this book, shouldn’t he?
  4. He was the best in the class, wasn’t he?
  5. Your sister is in Buenos Aires, isn’t she?
  6. Open the door, will you?
  7. They didn’t go to class last week, did they?
  8. They bought a new car, didn’t they?
  9. She is going to marry soon, is n’t she?
  10. You aren’t sure about this point, are you?
  11. Let’s play football tomorrow morning, shall we?
  12. At last he could find a job, couldn’t he?
  13. Jeff was not his teacher, was he?
  14. Penguins can’t fly, can they?
  15. He will come, won’t he?
  16. Don’t go to miss the lesson, will you?
  17. He doesn’t swim, does he?
  18. You aren’t Brazilian, are you?
  19. He just wants to play, doesn’t he?
  20. Your friends wanted to go to the concert, didn’t they?

These have different uses, such as:

  1. Get quick response on a topic.
  2. Reaffirm what was previously expressed.
  3. Know the opinion of the interlocutor.
  4. Confirmation of an information. 

Use 1. Get quick response on a topic

Many times it happens that we want to obtain information from another person, without having to establish a long conversation on that subject. So, if you want to get a quick answer on a topic, you can use these questions.

For example:

  • We are going to go on vacation this year, aren’t we? → We’re going on vacation this year, right?
  • You like coffee, don’t you? → You like coffee, don’t you?

Use 2. Reaffirm what was previously stated.

If you want to reaffirm an opinion you have about something or someone, using the question tags will be of great help to you.

For example:

  • A: Mary is a brilliant student, isn’t she? → Maria is a brilliant student, isn’t she?

      B: Yes, she is. She is kind of lazy though. → Yes, it is. Although it is a bit lazy.

  • Jessica isn’t a Doctor, is she? → Jessica is not a doctor, is she?
  • James and Lisa are friends, aren’t they? → James and Lisa are friends, right?

Use 3. Know the opinion of another person.

When we are talking with another person, it is normal that sometimes we want to know if the other person thinks the same as us, so it is common to use the “question tags” for this.

For example:

  • A: You think my new car is awesome, don’t you? → You think my new car is amazing, isn’t it?
  • B: Yeah, it is. Let’s go on a ride. → Yes, it is. We’re going for a walk.

Use 4.- Confirmation of information

Finally, these types of questions are also used when we want to confirm information.

For example:

  • Seth wasn’t at the party last night, was he? → Seth wasn’t at the party yesterday, was he?
  • Angelina and George went on a business trip, didn’t they? → Angelina and Jorge went on a business trip, didn’t they?
  • David is not going to play soccer on the weekend, is he? → David is not going to play football on the weekend, is he?

Rules of use

Now that you know the different situations in which you can use the “question tags”, let’s review some rules so you can use them correctly.

If the phrase is affirmative, the question will remain negative.

For example:

  • She’s really kind, isn’t she? → She is nice, isn’t she?
  • Kimberly will quit her job, won’t she? → Kimberly will quit her job, won’t she?

If the sentence is negative, the question will be affirmative.

For example:

  • He’s not very tall, is he? → He is not that tall, right?
  • You’re not the oldest sister, are you? → You are not the older sister, right?

If there is a modal verb in the main sentence, the question is formed with this verb.

For example:

  • You couldn’t come, could you? → I couldn’t come, right?
  • I can’t come, can I? → I can’t come, right?
  • Kevin can’t repair a computer, can he? → Kevin can’t repair a computer, right?
  • Clean your room, will you? → Clean your room, okay?
  • Let’s not discuss this now, shall we? → Let’s not discuss this now, okay?

 

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