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Sentence tags - Easy Learning Grammar

Tags are short additions that look like questions, used at the end of a declarative sentence. They are sometimes called question tags, but many sentences ending with a tag are not real questions. They are usually used to check that the listener agrees with what the speaker has said. Sentence tags are very commonly used in spoken English, but not in formal written English.The tag is added to the end of a statement. If the auxiliary verb be or have or a modal verb is part of the verb phrase in the sentence, then it is used as the verb in the sentence tag.
  • It isn’t raining again, is it?
  • You’ve seen the programme, haven’t you?
  • Well, we can’t jump over it, can we?
  • You will come, won’t you?
If the main verb is in the present simple or past simple tense, the tag is made using do.
  • He certainly likes eating, doesn’t he?
  • I slipped up there, didn’t I?
In negative tags, n’t is added to the auxiliary. Note that this contracted form is always used.
  • He certainly likes eating, doesn’t he?
  • I slipped up there, didn’t I?
  • They went with you, didn’t they?
  • The formal forms such as, does he not, did I not, have you not, sound old-fashioned. They are more common in some regional varieties of English.
The pronoun in the sentence tag must match the subject of the main verb.
  • You aren’t listening, are you?
  • He reads a lot, doesn’t he?
Sentence tags can be negative
  • They went with you, didn’t they?
or positive.
  • Your father doesn’t belong to the golf club, does he?
Normally, when the first part of the sentence is positive, the tag verb will be negative, and vice versa. Sentences in which both parts are positive are less common. These sentences must be used carefully as, with certain tones of voice, they can sound aggressive or judgemental.
  • I see, you think I’m a fool, do you?
  • So you smoke now, do you?
  • The same sentence tag may have different meanings depending on the tone of voice that is used with it.
  • Falling tone: statement
  • She’s gone out, hasn’t she?
  • Rising tone: question
  • She’s gone out, hasn’t she?
The sentence can be a statement of fact or a question, depending on whether your voice rises or falls at the end. However, a question mark is always required.Sentence tags are used in the following combinations:
  • To say something that the speaker expects the listener will agree with. This doesn’t always sound like a question:   positive main verb + negative tag
  • Mary will pass her driving test this time, won’t she?
  • Richard seems to have lost interest in everything, doesn’t he?
or negative main verb + positive tag
  • Jessica didn’t care, did she?
  • Kerry hadn’t done enough preparation, had she?
  • To point out or remark on something, often something that the listener cannot deny. This frequently sounds more like a question:   positive main verb + negative tag
  • You’ve just bought a new car, haven’t you?
  • Henry has been away already this year, hasn’t he?
or negative main verb + positive tag
  • Desmond hasn’t been to see you, has he?
  • Paula wasn’t in your class at school, was she?
  • To show interest in something. This often repeats part of what the previous speaker has said:   positive main verb + positive tag
  • You saw him in town, did you?
  • So, you come from New Zealand, do you?
  • So you’ve just come back from skiing, have you?
When a tag is used to show interest in something, the sentence is often begun with So. This type of tag can also be used in a challenging manner.
  • Oh, so you’ve been here all the time, have you?
After a command, a tag made with can, could, will, shall, or would makes an order more polite.
  • Make me a cup of tea, will you?
  • Just wait a minute, would you?
  • Let’s go to the cinema, shall we?

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