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Question Tags in English

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Basic questions in English are formed using the auxiliary verb followed by the subject which comes before the main verb.

Auxiliary Verb + Subject + Main Verb

Do you live in Poland?
How long has she worked at that company?

Sometimes, we don't really want to ask a question, but to check information. For example, if you are sure that a friend lives in Seattle, but want to check to make sure, you might use a question tag.

Tom lives in Seattle, doesn't he?

In this case, it isn't necessary to ask a question because you already know the information. Using a question tag helps you confirm the information you know is correct. Question tags can also change meaning based on how you pronounce the tag at the end of the sentence. If you raise your voice on the question tag you are asking if the information you just stated is indeed correct. Using question tags in this manner helps to make sure that you are doing something correctly, or understand a situation accurately. Here are some examples:

A mom buying some jeans for her daughter: You wear size 2, don't you?
A friend writing a birthday card to a friend: Peter was born on March 2, wasn't he?
A job interviewer checking information on a resume: You haven't worked at this company before, have you?

At other times, you drop the voice at the question tag. When dropping the voice at the question tag, you indicate that you are confirming information. Here are some examples:

Young man filling out a form speaking to his wife: We live on Cherry St, don't we?
Friend looking at a calendar with a meeting noted: We're meeting later this afternoon, aren't we?
Friend speaking to her friend as they walk in the rain: The sun won't shine today, will it?

Forming question tags is very easy. Remember that the question tag uses the auxiliary verb in the opposite form of the sentence itself. In other words, if the sentence is positive, the question tag takes the negative form of the auxiliary verb. If the sentence is negative, the question tag employs the positive form. Here's a quick review of principle tenses, the auxiliary form they take and example of a positive and a negative question tag for each tense:

Tense: Present Simple
Auxiliary Verb: Do / Does (to do)
Positive Sentence Question Tag Example: Peter enjoys going to movies, doesn't he?
Negative Sentence Question Tag Example: They don't work at this company, do they?

Tense: Present Continuous
Auxiliary Verb: Is / Are / Am (to be)
Positive Sentence Question Tag Example: Jennifer is studying at the moment, isn't she?
Negative Sentence Question Tag Example: We aren't walking, are we?

Tense: Past Simple
Auxiliary Verb: Did (to do)
Positive Sentence Question Tag Example: Jack bought a new house, didn't he?
Negative Sentence Question Tag Example: I didn't leave my wallet at home, did I?

Tense: Past Continuous
Auxiliary Verb: Was / Were (to be)
Positive Sentence Question Tag Example: Andy was working when you arrived, wasn't he?
Negative Sentence Question Tag Example: They weren't waiting for you, were they?

Tense: Present Perfect
Auxiliary Verb: Have / Has (to have)
Positive Sentence Question Tag Example: Harry has lived in New York for a long time, hasn't he?
Negative Sentence Question Tag Example: We haven't visited our friends in Chicago this year, have we?

Tense: Past Perfect
Auxiliary Verb: Had (to have)
Positive Sentence Question Tag Example: They had finished before he arrived, hadn't they?
Negative Sentence Question Tag Example: Jason hadn't already finished before you provided the update, had he?

Tense: Future with Will
Auxiliary Verb: Will
Positive Sentence Question Tag Example: Tom will think about it, won't he?
Negative Sentence Question Tag Example: They won't be able to come to the party, will they?

Tense: Future with Going to
Auxiliary Verb: Is / Are / Am (to be)
Positive Sentence Question Tag Example: Tom is going to study Russian, isn't he?
Negative Sentence Question Tag Example: They aren't going to be at the meeting, are they?

This is the basic structure of all question tags in English. Continue to learn about other question forms in English:

Question Words
Subject and Object Questions
Indirect Questions
Question Tags
Asking Polite Questions

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