Tag questions are very common in English and are used to check if something we think is true. It can be either a positive or negative statement followed by a confirmation question, the tag. Usually, when the main clause of the sentence is positive, the tag would be negative and vice versa, meaning the tag is usually the opposite of the main clause.
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What are Tag Questions?
Normally tag questions are used to confirm information that you think is correct. They come at the end of a statement. These can be a bit difficult for many English learners, but native English speakers use them all the time.
When should I use tag questions?
If I want to know basic information, I can ask a yes/no question:
Do you speak Chinese?
I can also ask “wh-” questions for more information:
“When is your class? Where do you live? Who is that? Why were you late? How often do you exercise?”
But if I think something is true, but I’m not 100% certain, I can ask a tag question:
“You speak Chinese, don’t you?”
Notice that the structure is very different from the other two types of questions.
How do I form tag questions?
This can get complicated, but basically there are two parts: (1) the statement and (2) the tag.
If the statement is positive, the tag is negative:
“You’ve seen the new “Star Wars” movie, haven’t you?“
And if the statement is negative, the tag is positive.
“You haven’t seen the new “Star Wars” movie yet, have you?“
The statements and tags should be in the same tense. Both of these examples are in the present perfect.
You also need to decide what tag to use. If you have a statement that uses an auxiliary (these are usually forms of “do,” “have,” “be” and modal verbs like “can,” “might,” “will,” etc.), then use the opposite auxiliary in the tag.
Here are a few examples:
“That building was built last year, wasn’t it?“
“The car wasn’t in the garage, was it?”
“You will go to the party, won’t you?”
“It has taken a long time to plan the party, hasn’t it?”
“It’s hot today, isn’t it?”
If there is no auxiliary in the statement, you should use the form of the verb “to do” that matches the tense in the statement in the tag. For example:
“You like pizza, don’t you?”
“His uncle works in the airport, doesn’t he?”
“You went to Bermuda last year, didn’t you?”
“We haven’t studied tag questions yet, have we?”
Contractions in English
In spoken and informal English, words and phrases are shortened (contracted) skipping some vowels to combine two or three words into one, usually indicated with an apostrophe.
In spoken and informal English, words and phrases are shortened (contracted) skipping some vowels to combine two or three words into one, usually indicated with an apostrophe in written English.
Contraction of a subject pronoun with certain verbs:
One of the most common forms of contractions combines subject pronouns with the following verbs:
“to be” (am/is/are) – I’m, You’re, She’s, He’s, It’s, We’re, They’re.
“have”/ “has” – I’ve, You’ve, They’ve, We’ve, She’s, He’s, It’s.
“will” – I’ll, You’ll, She’ll, He’ll, It’ll, We’ll, They’ll.
“would” or “had” – I’d, You’d, She’d, He’d, It’d, We’d, They’d.
We often use contractions combining question words with “is”, “are”, “not”.
• Who’s / What’s / Where’s / When’s / Why’s / How’s
“How’s it possible?”
• Who’re / What’re / Where’re / When’re / Why’re / How’re
“Why’re we here?”
“How’re they now?”
• Don’t / Doesn’t/ Won’t
• Wanna / Dunno
Contractions are more dominant in American English and slang. Two extreme examples are:
“I dunno!” (do not know.)
“I wanna go to town.” (want to)
Again, remember that tag questions use question marks (“?”), but they’re not actually asking questions. They’re just trying to get confirmation or make conversation.
Contractions are becoming more common in spoken English, making it more difficult for non-native speakers to follow conversations.