Tag Questions

Miscellaneous - Lesson #8

A tag question is a short question added to the end of a sentence. Here are a few examples.
  • He is a doctor, isn't he?
  • She didn't come, did she?
  • They are leaving tomorrow, aren't they?
Tag questions are mostly used in spoken English. We use them for two things.

1. We use tag questions to double check or verify something. The speaker thinks they know something, but the speaker wants to make sure that they are correct.

A) You are a teacher, aren't you?
B) Yes, I am a teacher.

A) She left, didn't she?
B) No, she is still here.

A) He has been to China, hasn't she?
B) Yes, he has been to China.

A) They will come, won't they?
B) I don't know. I think they will come.

2. We use tag questions to start a conversation or we want somebody to agree with us.

A) Today is a beautiful day, isn't it?
B) You are right. It is a marvelous day.

A) This steak is awful, isn't it?
B) Actually, mine is good.

There are three important things to remember:

1. If the sentence is positive, then the tag question is negative. If the sentence is negative, then the tag question is positive.
  • It is spicy, isn't it?
  • We should leave early, shouldn't we?
  • It didn't work, did it?
2. We only use pronouns in tag questions. Do not use the name of a person, place, country, building, or any other noun.
  • France is beautiful, isn't France?
  • France is beautiful, isn't it?

  • The children are happy, aren't the children?
  • The children are happy, aren't they?
3. For negative tag questions, we only use contractions.
  • It is good, is it not?
  • It is good, isn't it?

  • She finished, did she not?
  • She finished, didn't she?
Note: Once in a while, you might hear a native speaker, not use a contraction. People do this sometimes to emphasize their speech. For example, "You stole my watch, did you not?".

Now, let's see how to make tag questions in more detail.

1. For "be verbs" use the opposite "be verb". If the sentence is positive, then the tag question uses a negative "be verb". If the sentence is negative, then the tag question uses a positive "be verb".
  • It is nice, isn't it?
  • The water isn't cold, is it?
  • They are friends, aren't they?
  • The children aren't sick, are they?
  • She was late, wasn't she?
  • It wasn't good, was it?
  • The girls were happy, weren't they?
  • The people weren't scared, were they?
We also use the "be verb" when using continuous tenses.
  • He is cooking now, isn't he?
  • They are watching a movie tonight, aren't they?
  • They were studying last night, weren't they?
2. For action verbs in the present and past tense, only use the verb "do/does" or "did" in the tag question
  • He came, didn't he?
  • She didn't come, did she?
  • He usually exercises in the morning, doesn't he?
  • She doesn't smoke, does she?
3. If the sentence uses a modal (can, will, should, etc.), then use modal in the tag question.
  • We will go soon, won't we?
  • She won't come, will she?
  • They should be here soon, should they?
  • He has been to Japan, hasn't he?
  • She can dance well, can't she?
4. "Have/Has" can change in 2 ways.

If we use "have/has/had" has an action verb meaning to own or possess, then it changes like this.
  • She has 3 children, doesn't she?
  • They have a lot of money, don't they?
  • You had my book earlier, didn't you?
If we use "have/has/had" in the present perfect or past perfect tense, then it changes like this.
  • She has been to Europe, hasn't she?
  • We have been here before, haven't we?
Make sure that you understand this English grammar well. It is important to know if you want to speak English fluently.