Question tags are short question that are added at the end of sentences, more often in spoken English for many different reasons. There are quite different rules to use question tags that are not difficult to learn for beginners in English. Question tags are of different types – Positive and Negative, Used with Auxiliary verbs, without auxiliary verbs, With Modal verbs, With ‘I’m’ etc. In this English Grammar lesson with Michelle learn how to use them and why you should use them in spoken English.
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Complete Lesson Transcript : –
You have seen me before, haven’t you? What did I just ask you? I asked you a mini question but what is a mini question? Mini question is made with auxiliary verbs like will, have, has and it’s called a question tag and this is the topic for the day. We are learning what are question tags and what are the different ways to use them to sound more natural. My name is Michelle and please join me.
Right so with us we have some interesting questions, all right? Most of them actually all of them are questions and we are going to find out how to use question tags. So here we have with us a set of questions where we have used question tags but in every question we have used the question tag in a very different way. Let’s look at the first one that we have, “James plays the piano, doesn’t he?” What’s the tense of this question? This question is in simple present. Great, now the trick is that we always form the question tag using the helping verb or the auxiliary verb in a question but if we look at this statement, do we find an auxiliary? Well let’s see James plays the piano so plays here is the main verb, it is the main verb but what is the question verb, oh what is the auxiliary verb? So now because we know that he’s doing an action then definitely the auxiliary verb is do, alright? But we do not ask ‘don’t he’ we say ‘doesn’t he’ because here we are talking about the third person singular that’s why we use doesn’t he in the present tense. Now if I say do you go to the gym you go to the gym don’t you? In that case I’ll say ‘don’t you’ because we are not having the third person singular. So either you use doesn’t or don’t for the simple present tense.
Now let’s look at the next question that we have, “You didn’t lock the door, did you?” of course the tense of this question is simple past tense. Okay in simple past you do not have too many options but you only use did to talk about the past. So the same way we say you didn’t lock the door did you? Now something very tricky is that whenever you have a positive statement now let’s read the first one James plays the piano that’s a positive statement right because we do not have any ‘no’ in this but the questions tag has a ‘no’ so this is the trick whenever the statement is positive the question tag will always be negative and vice-versa which means that if the statement is negative the question tag will be positive so this statement is negative because it has ‘didn’t’ which means ‘did not’ therefore the question tag is positive.
Awesome now let’s look at the next statement that we have with us, “It’s a nice day, isn’t it? So did you hear the way I said that I’ll repeat myself, ‘it’s a nice day isn’t it?’ So here my voice has gone from up too low it was increased in the beginning when I said, ‘it’s a nice day, isn’t it?’ and then it goes low so this means I’m seeking agreement or I’m seeking confirmation which is one of the most important usage of the question tags, seeking agreement.
Okay now let’s look at the next one that we have, “You haven’t seen Lisa today, have you? Did you hear my intonation? ‘You haven’t seen Lisa today, have you?’ So my voice goes from low to high, why is that so? This means that I’m asking a genuine question. So like in the previous question I was seeking agreement, in this question I’m not seeking agreement I’m seeking an answer. So if I ask someone ‘you haven’t seen Lisa today, have you?’ this means that I’m expecting an answer and possibly that person would say, “No! I’m afraid, I haven’t seen Lisa today.” All right? So whenever your voice goes from high to low you’re seeking agreement but when your voice goes from being low to high, you’re seeking an answer and you’re asking a genuine question.
Now let’s look at the next one that we have, “You couldn’t do me a favor, could you? Okay let’s see that which one is the negative part, so here the statement is negative because this is short for ‘could not’, all right? And the question tag is positive as the rule applies to all of them, okay? The question tag is positive. So I say you couldn’t do me a favor, could you? Now something that you need to remember is, this formation when the statement is negative and the question tag is positive is generally asked when you are asking favor from someone or if you’re seeking information. So in this case you’re asking for help, okay? As I told you it’s used either to ask for help or either for asking information.
Let’s look at the next one, “You haven’t got a pen, have you?” So what’s the formation here? We still have a negative okay and a positive question tag. A negative statement and a positive question tag, in this case I’m asking for information it can be a simple yes-or-no answer, all right? ‘You haven’t got a pen, have you?’ “No.” So you could simply say yes or no because you’re providing information, all right? And if you do say yes then you’ve given more information.
Let’s look for another formation like this here, “You didn’t lock the door, did you?” So here again we have the negative statement like this and this but a positive question tag so here also you’re asking for information, either the person would say yes or they would say no.
Now we look at the next one, “Let’s go for a walk, shall we? Okay, we haven’t used the same auxiliary here as in the sentence we say here, ‘let us go for a walk’, are we talking about the present? Not really, we are talking about the near future or the immediate future, all right? Whenever we talk about the immediate future we will use a future word in this case that is ‘shall we’ which is more formal.
And let’s look at the next one, “Don’t be late, will you?” Here again we are talking to someone about the future so we are asking somebody to not be late in the future, maybe in the near future but we say will you because it’s an informal way of saying it. Great so as you’ve seen when we talk about the present we use either ‘do’ or ‘don’t’ or ‘don’t’ or ‘doesn’t’ when we talk about the past we use ‘did’ or ‘didn’t’ and when we talk about the future we’ll either use ‘will’ or ‘shall’ irrespective of the auxiliary in the main statement and just to remind you a negative statement plus a positive question tag is used to ask for information or to ask for help.
I hope that you’ve solved the puzzle about question tags and now you’ll not be confused about them anymore. Use them and sound more natural. Thank you so much for having me, bye-bye.