Unit 51. question tags (do you? isn’t it? etc.) – grammar in use

A.
Study these examples:
You haven’t seen Mary today, have you?
No, I’m afraid not.
It was a good film, wasn’t it?
Yes. I really enjoyed it.
Have you? and wasn’t it? are question tags (= mini-questions that we often put on the end of a sentence in spoken English). In question tags, we use an auxiliary verb (have/was/will etc.).
We use do/does/did for the present and past simple (see also Unit 50):
* ‘Karen plays the piano, doesn’t she?’ ‘Well, yes, but not very well.’
* ‘You didn’t lock the door, did you?’ ‘No, I forgot.’

B.
Normally we use a negative question tag after a positive sentence:
positive sentence + negative tag
Mary will be here soon, won’t she?
There was a lot of traffic, wasn’t there?
Jim should pass the exam, shouldn’t he?
… and a positive question tag after a negative

sentence:
negative sentence + positive tag
Mary won’t be late, will she?
They don’t like us, do they?
You haven’t got a car, have you?
Notice the meaning of yes and no in answer to a negative sentence:
* You’re not going out today, are you? Yes. (Yes, I am going out)
* You’re not going out today, are you? No. (No, I am not going out)

C.
The meaning of a question tag depends on how you say it. If your voice goes down, you aren’t really asking a question; you are only inviting the listener to agree with you:
* ‘It’s a nice day, isn’t it?’ ‘Yes, lovely.’
* ‘Tim doesn’t look well today, doese he? ‘No, he looks very tired.’
* She’s very pretty. She’s got beautiful eyes, hasn’t she?
But if the voice goes up, it is a real question:
* ‘You haven’t seen Mary today, have you?’ ‘No, I’m afraid not.’
(= Have you seen Mary today by any chance?)
We often use a negative sentence + positive tag to ask for things or information, or to ask somebody to do something. The voice goes up at the end of the tag in sentences like these:
* ‘You haven’t got a pen, have you?’ ‘Yes, here you are.’
* ‘You couldn’t do me a favour, could you?’ ‘It depends what it is.’
* ‘You don’t know where Karen is, do you?’Sorry, I’ve no idea.’

D.
After Let’s… the question tag is… shall we?:
Let’s go for a walk, shall we?
After the imperative (Do…/Don’t do… etc.), the tag is usually… will you?:
Open the door, will you?
Don’t be late, will you?
Note that we say… aren’t I? (= am I not?):
I’m late, aren’t I?



Unit 51. question tags (do you? isn’t it? etc.) – grammar in use