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auxiliary verbs

Question tags


Grammatical form

Positive statement, + auxiliary + not + subject + ?

Your name's David, isn't it?
You eat fish, don't you?
You can drive, can't you?

Negative statement, + auxiliary + subject + ?

She's not here, is she?
You don't speak Spanish, do you?



General usage

We can use question tags to check something we believe to be true.
I am fairly sure his name is David but I'm not 100 per cent certain:

Your name's David, isn't it?

I think he likes fish but I'm not absolutely sure:

You like fish, don't you?

I don't think he's coming to the meeting:

He's not coming to the meeting, is he?

If the statement is grammatically positive, the tag is usually negative; if the statement is grammatically negative, the tag is usually positive.

Degrees of certainty and intonation

The intonation of the tag can change. It depends how sure you are.
If you are very certain of something, the intonation of the tag falls. You're expecting the person to say yes.

You were here yesterday, weren't you?

If you are less certain and you think the answer might be no, the intonation of the tag rises:

You were here yesterday, weren't you?


Inviting agreement

Sometimes we use question tags to express an idea and invite other people to agree with us. We are not really asking a question:

It's cold in here, isn't it?

You are not asking whether it is cold. You are saying that you think it is cold and you are inviting the other speaker to agree.

'It's a lovely day, isn't it?'
'It certainly is.'


Responses to question tags

The use of yes and no here can be tricky.

When the first speaker is right
If the person responding agrees with the speaker, they follow the grammar of the tag and use yes for a positive, no for a negative.
In the following examples, the first speaker is correct and the second speaker confirms that:

'You're David, aren't you?'
'Yes, I am.'

'You don't live here, do you?'
No, I don't.

In the last example, the second speaker says No, I don't, meaning that the first speaker is correct.

When the first speaker is wrong
If the statement is positive, it's possible to answer with no.

'You're David, aren't you?'
'(No) I'm not, actually. I'm Michael.'

But if the statement is negative, it is not usual to answer with yes.

'You don't live here, do you?'
'I do actually. I live just across the road.'

If the person responding does not agree with the speaker, they do not always use yes or no. Often some other word or phrase is used to show contradiction.
In the examples below, actually + some other evidence ('I'm Michael'; 'I live just across the road') are used.

Positive statement and positive tag

Sometimes, the normal rules do not apply:
Suggestions with 'Let's'

Let's go for a drink, shall we?

Some requests with will / won't
When we make a request starting with an imperative, it's common to use a positive tag:

Give me a hand, will you?
Shut the door, will you?


Other exceptions

I am....aren't I?
When we make a statement in the first person I with the verb to be, the tag is
aren't I? There is no contraction of am not (amn't) I?

I'm late again, aren't I?

The slang term ain't is not the tag for 'I am'.
ESL quizzes for Question tags
Question tags quiz
Ten-question MC quiz

ESL lesson plans

How Donald Trump Got Rich: A Tale of Three Trumps

US Election ESL worksheet 1 Donald Trump ESL worksheet 2 Donald Trump worksheet 3 Donald Trump ESL worksheet 4 Donald Trump ESL worksheet 5 Donald Trump ESL worksheet 6
B1 / B2 Complete lesson Skills: split reading; discussion; role play Vocabulary: business and economics

Download A Tale of Three Trumps for B1/B2 (PDF)
C1 Complete lesson Skills: split reading; discussion; Grammar: participle clauses

Download A Tale of Three Trumps for C1 (PDF)

US Election Special 2016

US Election ESL worksheet 1 US Election ESL worksheet 2 US Election ESL worksheet 3 US Election ESL worksheet 4
B2/C1 Complete lesson Vocabulary: politics, elections; skills: discussing elections and issues.

Download Politics and the US Election (PDF)

Wear high heels or go home: gender discrimination at work

Gender descrimination ESL worksheet 1 Gender descrimination ESL worksheet 2 Gender descrimination ESL worksheet 3
B2/C1 Complete lesson Vocabulary work clothes; skills: gender discrimination; grammar: reported speech.

Download Workplace gender discrimination (PDF)

English grammar notes

Comparison with as...as

Comprehensive grammar reference notes, illustrated.
Grammar notes on comparison with as..as 1 Grammar notes on comparison with as..as 2 Grammar notes on comparison with as..as 3
Download English grammar notes: comparison with as...as (PDF)