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Tag questions in English are easy to make, aren’t they? Posted by on May 28, 2013 in English Grammar

There are a number of ways to ask questions in English.  You can ask a simple yes or no question: Do you like milk? Or you can ask a wh- questions: Where is the milk? Another way to ask questions in English is by using tag questions: You bought milk yesterday, didn’t you? Tag questions get there name from the fact that the question is tagged on (or put on) the end of a sentence that didn’t start out as a questions.  Yes/no and wh- questions start out as questions from the beginning of the sentence, but tag questions allow for a speaker or writer to change their statement into a question part way through their thought, by just tagging the question on the end.

In order to figure out how to make tag questions, let’s look at a few simple sentences:

There are flowers growing in the garden.

Jess loves to cook.

Owen hasn’t been to Mexico.

The test can’t be too hard.

There were many people there.

He won’t help us.

All of these statements can be turned into questions by adding tags.

There are flowers growing in the garden, aren’t there?

Jess loves to cook, doesn’t she?

Owen hasn’t been to Mexico, has he?

The test can’t be too hard, can it?

There were many people there, weren’t there?

He won’t help us, will he?

Looking at these examples we can learn a few important things about making tag questions:

  1. Tags have the verb ‘to be’ or an auxiliary verb (have, had, can, may, will) or the verb ‘to do’.
  2. Tags for positive (or affirmative) statements are negative and tags for negative statements are positive.
  3. The answer to tag questions is either: yes, no, or I don’t know. So in a way tag questions are just another type of yes/no question.

Also be sure to note that just as when asking other questions in English you should ask tag questions with rising intonation at the end of the sentence.

There is another way to ask tag questions in English too and that is by making a statement and then adding a word(s) of confirmation to the end of the statement.  Here are some examples:

Jim is a nice person, right?

I owe you $20, correct?

The play was wonderful, don’t you agree?

Beth is going to be late so we should get started, okay?

These tag questions also require rising intonation and can be answered with yes, no, or I don’t know.

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About the Author: Gabriele

Hi there! I am one of Transparent Language's ESL bloggers. I am a 32-year-old native English speaker who was born and raised in the United States. I am living in Washington, DC now, but I have lived all over the US and also spent many years living and working abroad. I started teaching English as a second language in 2005 after completing a Master's in Applied Linguists and a Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults' (CELTA). Since that time I have taught ESL in the United States at the community college and university level. I have also gone on to pursue my doctorate in psychology and now I also teach courses in psychology. I like to stay connected to ESL learners around the world through Transparent Languages ESL Blog. Please ask questions and leave comments on the blog and I will be sure to answer them.