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BBC LEARNING ENGLISH

English Masterclass
Question Tags

Dan
So, you want to learn question tags, do you? Lucky for you, Im here to tell you everything I
know, arent I? Ready, are you? Lets go!

Now, at this level many of you will know that a question tag is an auxiliary verb plus a
pronoun, which is put at the end of a sentence, either to ask for more information about
something, or to confirm something which we believe is true. The question tag relates
directly to the sentence. The auxiliary verb matches the main verb and the pronoun comes
directly from the noun. Question tags can either have a rising or falling intonation, and, as
everybody knows, if the main sentence is affirmative, then the question tag is negative, so:
You do live here, dont you? and vice versa. Thats the easy stuff: now for the hard stuff

So sentences which use a negative or limiting adverb, such as never, and hardly, and other
words of that type, even though they appear to be positive in construction, they are treated
as a negative by the question tag. So, not: They never go on holiday, dont they? But They
never go on holiday, do they?

Sentences which use indefinite nouns such as someone, anyone, no one and everyone, can
be tricky with question tags. After all, whats the pronoun for no one? In question tags we
use they. For example: No one cares, do they? Everyone left, didnt they? However, with
other indefinite nouns such as something and everything, we would use it. So: Everything is
OK, isnt it? Or Nothing matters, does it? Got it?

An imperative is a command, or at least a strong suggestion. An example would be: Sit


down! Now, because imperatives dont have a tense, they dont use an auxiliary verb in the
same way as other sentences do. So, how can we make a question tag with them? Well, the
answer is, we use wont you - although other modal verbs can be used, such as will, would,
can, and could. Sit down, wont you? Open the window, will you? Dont go outside, will you?
Keep quiet, wont you?

The level of formality depends upon the choice of question tag and the tone of your voice,
although cant you can come across as quite impatient and annoyed for example: Turn the
TV down, cant you?

When making a suggestion, it is common to use the expression lets. Lets stands for let us,
for example: Lets go to the cinema. When we use lets in a question tag we always use shall

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we, regardless of whether lets is affirmative or negative. So for example: Lets go to the
cinema, shall we? Or Lets not go to the cinema, shall we?

Double positives are possible, and this is quite a common way of reacting when people have
just learned news or when somebody is reacting in an emotional way to something. For
example: Youre getting married, are you? You just lost your wallet, did you? You see?

Finally, if you start a sentence with I think, dont use the question tag do I. I think hes a
great teacher, do I? Though this can happen in some cases, such as sarcasm, we normally
make the question tag agree with the main information, otherwise were basically asking our
self to agree with our self. So, for example: I think hes a great teacher, isnt he? Or I dont
think thats a good idea, is it?

For more information go to: bbclearningenglish.com. Ive been Dan, havent I? Youve been
fantastic, havent you? And Ill see you next time, wont I? Cheerio!

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