1. Question tags
2. Characteristics and uses of questions tags
- Question tags are formed taking into account the verb tense of the statement of reference.
- When the statement of reference is affirmative, the question tag is negative; when the statement of reference is negative, the question tag is affirmative.
- They are placed at the end of the sentence, preceded by a comma and followed by a question mark.
- Question tags are formed by an auxiliary or modal verb, followed by a personal subject pronoun, according to the verb tense and the subject of the statement of reference.
Below, we detail different verb tenses with their corresponding question tags.
|Verb tense||Positive sentence||Negative sentence|
|To be present||Summer is the best season, isn't it?||We aren't late, are we?|
|Present simple||He loves skiing, doesn't he?||I don't need this, do I?|
|Present continuous||They are still sleeping, aren't they?||She is not being serious, is she?|
|To be past||Mary was worried, wasn't she?||They weren't at home, were they?|
|Past simple||You cut yourself, didn't you?||He didn't get hurt, did he?|
|Past continuous||Your parents were painting, weren't they?||It wasn't raining this morning, was it?|
|Present perfect||You have locked the door, haven't you?||He hasn't written this essay, has he?|
|Past perfect||You had already been here, hadn't you?||We hadn't eaten snails before, had we?|
|Future will||I'll do well, won't I?||They won't get angry, will they?|
|Future Going to||You are going to buy a flat, aren't you?||She is not going to come, is she?|
|Modals||I should give up smoking, shouldn't I?||She couldn't send the parcel, could she?|
When the statement of reference is in present simple or past simple affirmative, no auxiliary verb is used. However, we must remember that in the question tag we will use don't/doesn't in the present and didn't in the past.
3. Special cases
We must take into account some special cases:
- With affirmative imperatives, we have different options to make the question tag. When the imperative is negative, the option is always will you.
Sentence Question tag Uso Close the door, won't you? Polite would you? Very polite could you? Neutral will you? Neutral can you? InformalHelp me with the bags, would you?Don't interrupt, will you?
- When the imperative is with the particle let's, the question tag is shall we?
Let's dance, shall we?Let's go for a ride, shall we?
- When we have an affirmative sentence in the present tense with the verb to be and the personal pronoun I, although formally the question tag would be am I not?, the most commonly used is aren't I?I'm quite stubborn, aren't I?I'm holding the map upside down, aren't I?
- When we use the semi modal verb have to, the question tag depends on the verb tense used in the statement of reference.They had to cancel the match, didn't they?We don't have to wear costumes, do we?
|In sentences with a positive verb but with a word with a negative meaning (never, nothing, nobody...), the question tag will be positive.||She never agrees on anything, does she?|
|If the subject of the sentence is this or that, the pronoun of the question tag will be it. If the subject is these or those, the pronoun will be they.||That's you sister, isn't it?|
|When the subject is someone, anyone..., the personal pronoun of the question tag will be they. If it's something, anything..., the pronoun will be it.||Someone will fix that, won't they?|
|In sentences with there + to be, the question tag will not take any personal pronoun, but will take the particle there.||There aren't any pears, are there?|
|Verb tense||Positive sentence||Negative sentence|
|TO BE PRESENT||Aren't / isn't + pronoun||Am / are / is + pronoun|
|You are a doctor.||She is a doctor, isn't she?||They aren't doctors, are they?|
|PRESENT SIMPLE||Don't / doesn't + pronoun||Do / does + pronoun|
|He does judo.||He does judo, doesn't he?||He doesn't do judo, does he?|
|PRESENT CONTINUOUS||Aren't / isn't + pronoun||Am / are / is + pronoun|
|She is living in New York.||She is living in New York, isn't she?||She isn't living New York, is she?|
|TO BE PAST||Wasn't / weren't + pronoun||Was / were + pronoun|
|It was his birthday yesterday.||It was his birthday yesterday, wasn't it?||It wasn't his birthday yesterday, was it?|
|PAST SIMPLE||Didn't + pronoun||Did + pronoun|
|They bought a new car last week.||They bought a new car last week, didn't they?||They didn't buy a new car last week, did they?|
|PAST CONTINUOUS||Wasn't / weren't + pronoun||Was / were + pronoun|
|He was waiting at the bus stop.||He was waiting at the bus stop, wasn't he?||He wasn't waiting at the bus stop, was he?|
|PRESENT PERFECT||Haven't / hasn't + pronoun||Have / has + pronoun|
|They have lived here for seven years.||They have lived here for seven years, haven't they?||They haven't lived here for seven years, have they?|
|PAST PERFECT||Hadn't + pronoun||Had + pronoun|
|She had given him the gift.||She had given him the gift, hadn't she?||She hadn't given him the gift, had she?|
|FUTURE WILL||Won't + pronoun||Will + pronoun|
|He will be here tomorrow.||He will be here tomorrow, won't he?||He won't be here tomorrow, will he?|
|FUTURE GOING TO||Aren't / isn't + pronoun||Am / are / is + pronoun|
|We are going to have a party.||We are going to have a party, aren't we?||We aren't going to have a party, are we?|
|MODALS||Modal negative + pronoun||Modal positive + pronoun|
I can read this letter.
I should answer the letter
|I can read this letter, can't I?
I should answer the letter, shouldn't I?
|I can't read this letter, can I?
I shouldn't answer the letter, should I?