Sophie is in the Australian outback and not everything goes to plan. 

We add question tags to the end of statements to turn them into questions. They are used in spoken language, especially when we want to check something is true, or invite people to agree with us.

So how do we form question tags?

We add a clause in the form of a question at the end of a sentence. If the main part of the sentence is positive we usually add a negative question tag.

It’s a bit early, isn’t it?

If the main part is negative, we usually add a positive question tag.

Mum isn’t in trouble, is she?

OK, that seems easy.

Yes, but you need to think about what verb to use in the tag. If there is an auxiliary, a modal verb or the verb to be in the main clause, we use that in the question tag.

You’re in a desert in the middle of Australia, aren’t you?

If there is another main verb, we use do in the correct form (as we would with questions and negatives).

I think she might be getting a bit old for this sort of travelling, don’t you?
We told you not to drive in the outback on your own, didn’t we?

OK, so the question tag refers to the subject of the main sentence.

Yes, very often, but sometimes it doesn’t.

I can’t imagine her doing anything else, can you?

Are there any exceptions?

There are a few. We use 'aren’t I' instead of the more logical 'amn’t I'.

I’m next in the queue, aren’t I?

Where is the stress in question tags?

It’s on the verb and the intonation is usually falling, unless the speaker isn’t sure about some kind of factual information, then it’s rising.

You’re from Beijing, aren’t you? (falling intonation = you’re fairly sure)
You’re from Beijing, aren’t you? (rising intonation = you’re not very sure and want the other person to confirm the information)

You use them a lot in conversation, don’t you?

Yes, we do. We use them a lot to try and involve other people in conversations.

So I’d better start using them more, hadn’t I?

Yep!

 

Discussion

Other languages don't really have question tags, do they?

Comments

iloveenglish4's picture
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iloveenglish4 3 July, 2020 - 14:24

Hello,
I'm from Poland and in my Polish language we actually do have such thing like question tags but it isn't very nice and formal when we use them. Also we don't have specific rules for these because it is only one phrase in all of the sentences. I can compare polish question tags to English "like" but at the end of the sentence after a comma. It's just a interlude.

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gio_cra2004's picture
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gio_cra2004 24 March, 2020 - 14:38

The question tag are words added at the end of the speech to affirm something; in our language this is not used except for some special cases such as in poems.

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mmatildepontoni04's picture
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mmatildepontoni04 24 March, 2020 - 13:39

In italian language we don't usually use questions tag.
It is sometimes used when a speaker is unsure about if something is right or not

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empty's picture
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empty 23 June, 2019 - 17:04

Hi everyone
In my mother tongue , Persian , for question tags , we say a same sentence as it is in English , but in Persian .

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Youjiro's picture
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Youjiro 2 February, 2019 - 11:31

Yes,We don't have Question tags.I talk with English speaker in the English class.They don't use Question tags so often.Question tags is not use in conversation isn't it?

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Elsa007's picture
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Elsa007 29 February, 2016 - 06:06

I think a question tag is very logical.
It makes sense that it is used when a speaker is unsure about if something is right or not; the speaker is exactly in the middle of affirmation and negation. On the one hand, other languages which do not have question tags express the same situation only by adding 'right?' just to seek the approval of his/her view.

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Vel's picture
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Vel 27 February, 2016 - 16:34

I have a doubt?
You are here. How to make this sentence as a question?
In the below sentence, which one correct. if both are wrong. what is the correct question?
How do you here?
How you are here?

I want to ask above question, when am meeting someone unexpectedly? Help Please....!

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Jo - Coordinator's picture
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Jo - Coordinator 28 February, 2016 - 09:32

Hi Vel! 'How are you here?' would be correct but sounds slightly strange. It would be more natural to say 'What are you doing here?' or 'How come you're here?'. 
Best wishes, Joanna (LearnEnglish teens team)

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Vel's picture
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Vel 29 February, 2016 - 18:52

Thanks Jo. I want to learn Proposition. I should know when and where to use that ( I need clear place to learn everything). How to form a sentence. like this etc. Can you share any link to learn these. Please...!

And one more help. I want to improve the communication skills. I don't know what are the things I should follow to improve the communication. Is there a way?
you should follow in these order
like
1. listening is first
2. reading
3. pronunciation
4. conversation

Is there any order, we should follow? I don't know. I am totally confused... My mind is going here and there. I don't know what way is correct? Can you help me please..............!

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Jonathan - Coordinator's picture
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Jonathan - Coor... 1 March, 2016 - 04:00

Hi Vel. For a more detailed explanation of grammar, have a look at this page on our LearnEnglish site for adult students: http://learnenglish.britishcouncil.org/en/english-grammar

From your comment, it sounds like the 'Clause, phrase and sentence' section would be useful to you so start there.

As for improving communication skills, it's true that listening to or reading something first is a good idea. You can try to copy the vocab and the pronunciation that you read/hear. Later this year we'll be starting a new Speaking skills practice section with videos where you can do exactly that, so look out for that!

However, it's also true that a single, fixed way to learn doesn't exist. Students are all different from one another and they may find different ways of learning more effective for them. It also depends on what thing you're studying and how good at it you already are. Sorry for the complex answer ... but it's a complex question! I can see that you are already explaining your questions clearly in writing so you have already made a good start. Good luck!

Jonathan (LearnEnglish Teens Team)

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jennifer1907's picture
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jennifer1907 25 April, 2015 - 14:24

Hi there, I'm from Vietnam, exactly is the South of Vietnam. Vietnamese people sometimes use the question tags. To support their opinions. I think this info wold help!

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Jo - Coordinator's picture
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Jo - Coordinator 2 April, 2015 - 08:15

Hi Sonya777, Great news! Thanks for letting us know. 
Joanna (LearnEnglish Teens team)

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Sonya777's picture
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Sonya777 31 March, 2015 - 03:43

Hi Learn English Team,
why this video can not be watched???
I really want to know about question tags.
because I always get bad score at my english course.

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Jo - Coordinator's picture
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Jo - Coordinator 31 March, 2015 - 09:13

Hi Sonya777, I'm sorry to hear you're having problems with the video. What browser are you using? Can you watch the Fast Phrasals and Video zone videos OK? If you tell us a bit more we can investigate the problem better.
Thanks, Jo (LearnEnglish Teens team)

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hadia's picture
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hadia 1 April, 2015 - 11:48

hey Jo! I want to tell you that I'm able to watch the grammar and vocabulary videos only not that of video zone
thanks, hadia

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Sonya777's picture
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Sonya777 1 April, 2015 - 06:08

Hi jo,
I am using google chrome.
But,I can watch The Fast Phrasals and video Zone videos.
Only This Video that I Can't Watch.
Thanks,Sonya

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JoEditor's picture
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JoEditor 22 October, 2014 - 10:09

Hi niha23,
I am sorry, but for copyright reasons you are not allowed to download and save our videos. You can watch it online as many times as you like.
Best wishes, Jo (LearnEnglish Teens Team) 

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PestR's picture
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PestR 16 October, 2014 - 09:06

Hi learn English team,
Could you please let me know how to place utensils after dining in the European style, if we dinned with a spoon and a fork.
Thank you, Pest

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JoEditor's picture
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JoEditor 16 October, 2014 - 13:22

Hi PestR,
I think I know what you mean but I'm not sure. When we finish eating in Britain we normally put the knife and fork together on one side of the empty plate. Do you do it differently in Australia?
Best wishes, Jo (LearnEnglish Teens Team)

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PestR's picture
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PestR 16 October, 2014 - 14:12

Hi Jo,
I live in Australia, but I'm not a native Australian. I'm from a Asian country. We use both American and European dining styles in my country. And sometimes we use a spoon to eat rice or spaghetti. So my question is in that case when we finish dining how to put the spoon with other utensils on the plate? Should we keep the spoon up-side-down or up-side-up?
Thanks, Pest

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JoEditor's picture
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JoEditor 22 October, 2014 - 10:19

Hi again PestR,
OK, I think I know what you mean now. I put the spoon up-side-up when I've finished eating, but I'm not sure that we have strict rules about this. Why don't you look at what people do in restaurants and then you can copy them?! 
Best wishes, Jo (LearnEnglish Teens Team) 

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PestR's picture
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PestR 23 October, 2014 - 14:34

Hi again Jo,
Thank you very much indeed. Yep. That's what I always do. But sometimes I get to attend business meals with my parents with the company of fellow colleagues of my fathers office. That's why I decided to learn basic dinning etiquette properly.
I'd also like to suggest that it's better if you could please make a notifications system, so we can easily get to know if someone has replied to our posts.
Thanks again, Pest

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