Question tags are not a complete question in itself. These are a form of question attached with a statement. This acts as a confirmation to that of the statements. Question tags are also used in everyday life conversations in order to seek the attention of the listener.
Types of Tags
Positive Question Tags
Tags are said to be positive if it is attached to a negative statement. For example:
- She is not working, is she?
- They had not gone there, had they?
Negative Question Tags
Tags are said to be negative if it is attached to a positive statement. For example:
- We are reading, aren’t we ?
- You will do this job, won’t you?
Question Tag Rules
Rule 1: Subject of a tag can never be a noun. It is always a pronoun.
- Jack is doing maths, isn’t he?
Rule 2: Question tag never starts with a capital letter.
Rule 3: The auxiliary that is to be used in the formation of tag must be in the contracted form. This holds good only in the case of a negative tag.
- do + not = don’t
- does+ not = doesn’t
- did+ not = didn’t
- is+ not = isn’t
- are+ not = aren’t
- has+ not = hasn’t
- have+ not = haven’t
- had+ not = hadn’t
- was+ not = wasn’t
- were + not = weren’t
- shall+ not = shan’t
- will+ not = won’t
- can+ not = can’t
- may + not = mayn’t
- could+ not = couldn’t
- might+ not = mightn’t
- should+ not = shouldn’t
- would+ not = wouldn’t
- ought+ not = oughtn’t
- must+ not = mustn’t
- used+ not = usedn’t
- need+ not = needn’t
- dare+ not = daren’t
Rule 4: In case auxiliary is not there in the statement then [do/does/did] is used in the tag.
- She plays chess beautifully, doesn’t she?
Rule 5: Statements that use the followings are considered negative and hence, tag to these statements will be positive: Barely, Hardly, No, Neither, None, Nobody, No one, Nothing, Seldom, Scarcely, Rarely.
- He had nothing, had he?
Rule 6: If the statement has an introductory subject with it then the subject of the tag becomes as follows:
- Subject of Statement – Subject of Tag
- This – It
- That – It
- These – They
- Those – They
- One – One
- There – There
- It – It
Example: This is my pen, isn’t it?
Rule 7: If the statement has demonstrative or distributive adjectives with it then the subject of the tag will be chosen as per the number, gender and person of the noun being qualified by the adjective. For example:
- This girl was dancing, wasn’t she?
Rule 8: If the subject of the statement is an indefinite pronoun then the subject of the tag will be ‘they’. For example:
- Somebody invited me, didn’t they?
Rule 9: If the subject of the statement is nothing, everything, something or anything then the subject of the tag will be ‘it’. For example:
- Everything is fine, isn’t it?
Rule 10: Some expressions that use objective case of the pronoun and are used as the subjects in the statement then the subject of the tag will be the subjective case of the pronoun. For example:
- All of you are convict, aren’t you?
Rule 11: Statements that have begun with ‘let’ take their subject of tag in the different ways.
- Statement with ‘Let’ – Subject of Tag
- Let us – We
- Let him – You
- Let them – You
- Let her – You
For example: Let us go, shall we?
Rule 12: If the imperative sentence is written with positive sense then the tag will be either ‘will you’ or ‘ won’t you’. Also, if the imperative sentence is written with negative sense then the tag will be ‘will you’.
- Open the gate, will you?
Rule 13: If the imperative sentence expresses annoyance or irritation then the tag used is ‘can’t you’. For example :
- Shut up, can’t you?
- Keep your mouth shut, can’t you?