September 13, 2008


In writing English we have got a lots of methods to emphasize any intended part to drive home some points or motives. One can use features like highlighting, coloring, underlining, double underlining, CAPITALIZING or italicizing to emphasize.  As it is not possible to resort to any of the afore-mentioned means available in writing English, we use different methods in speaking english to emphasize or drive home the intended points. 

However, in speaking English the available methods are limited and one short coming is that the ‘Undo’ button is unavailable.  Generally, our flow of speaking tends to be a mixture of soft and hard syllables. The intended words or part of the sentence is pronounced hard ore soft deliberately.  The raising and falling voice at the end of a sentence put the required and intended emphasis. It is the hard or soft flow that determine period, comma etc.  The body languages of a speaker also reciprocate with that of the emphasis and voice.   These tricks of speaking English are mastered gradually, by native speakers whose mother tongues happen to be a language other than English.  But there are chances of over lapping and the intended part is not pronounced that hard or soft and at the end the intended meaning or emphasis is not generated.  But there is another forceful method available that is “TAG QUESTION.” 

Tag question is nothing but a Yes/No question with the help of Auxiliary verb and the subject with the use of the most overused negative word NOT.  No doubt there happens to question tag without the use of the negative word NOT.  The question always comes at the end of a sentence. 


For example:  You are 10 years old, aren’t you? (Pronounced Aint Ye/You)  

Here the speaker knows very well that the person is 10 years old.  He only wants to emphasize that he knows his age correctly which is 10.  And the answer is ‘Yes’ Further, if we leave the question part then the sentence retains its meaning.  So it can be said that the question part is only for emphasis and can be said an ornament of speaking English. 


Let’s discuss about some general rules regarding tag making.  First of all the type of sentence is ascertained like whether the sentence is a positive (Affirmative sentence) or negative one.  If the sentence happens to a negative one, a positive tag is appended to the end of the sentence.  And if the sentence happens to be a positive one, a negative tag is appended. 


It is hot today.  (Affirmative sentence)  It is hot today, isn’t it?  (Negative tag)

It is not hot today.  (Negative sentence) It is not hot today, is it? (Affirmative tag)


Secondly, the auxiliary verb is known by use of which the tag question is framed.  The subject or pronoun is repeated with the auxiliary verb to finish the tag.  In the above sentences the auxiliary verb “Is” is used to frame the tag with not or without not. 


He is a boy, isn’t he?

He is not a good boy, is he?


We don’t put question tag after questions. 


You’re the manager, aren’t you?

Are you the manager, aren’t you?  (Not allowed) 


If the main sentence has no auxiliary verbs and happen to be in the Simple form of tense ( Sub+Main verb Form 1, I go).  In these type of sentence the auxiliary “Do” and its derivative “Did” remain there in concealed form.  And while framing we use these verbs. 


You like mutton, don’t you?  (Pronounced donchyu)

You liked the performance, didn’t you?


We show the meaning of the question tag by raising and bringing down our voice.  If the tag happens to be a real one and we want to know the answer, we generally, raise our voice.  


The soccer match is at 3 o’clock, isn’t it? (The exact time is not known and the speaker wants to know the time and asking a real question)


If we know the answer of a question beforehand and ask a question only for emphasis we soften our voice.  This kind of question happens to be unreal and the question generally doesn’t require any answer. 


The girl is charming, isn’t she?  (The pronoun “She is used in place of the girl”)

We often require some help or some informations.

(Negative question + Question Tag)


You couldn’t help me doing home work, could you? 

You have not seen my paintings, have you?


Note:  The question tag for I am is Aren’t I.

To invite people to do things, we use won’t you.

To tell people to do things, we use will you? Would you? Can you? Can’t you?

Would you like some coffee, won’t you?

Could you please pass the salt, would you?

Do sit down. Won’t you?

Open the gate, would you?

Let’s have a chat, shall we?  (Let’s construction requires the use of Shall)

We use “IT” in question tag to refer to Nothing and THEY to refer to Nobody.


Nothing can happen, can it?

Nobody arrived, did they?


We also use THEY to refer to somebody, everybody.

Somebody came to our house, didn’t they? 


Please note the Comma (,) before the Tag. 

The Not part is not pronounced fully rather the shorten form or contracted N’t is pronounced.  In question tag, the contracted forms of various auxiliaries or modals like won’t, shouldn’t are used.  

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  1. Actually, not to be contrary, but with the question "You're 10 years old, aren't you?", the questioner might really know that the kid is 10 years old. Not sure if that changes things, but I often have no idea how old someone is, so whether I say it or write it, I'm not sure how you'd define its inflection or tag changes.

  2. Mitch thanks for u'r curiocity. He is ten years old actually is not an answer to a question "how old are u ?" this kind of sentences are used in informal conversations. A speaker only uses this kind of sentence only to enhance a discussion. And usually this kind of discussion enhancers are happened to be sentences of known answers.

    First meeting "how old are u ?"
    Second meeting "you are ten years old, are not you ?"

    I have only discussed about the second case.

    Any way thanks for the comment. Mail me

  3. I forgot that you're in a different country than I am. In my area, we often use sentences such as your lead sentence to get conversations started, and often really don't know the answers to the questions we're asking. Sometimes we're not even close, but since that's not really the point, that being the information gathering piece, it's okay to be wrong at the time.

    your purpose would be different than ours, though, so in your case, it works.


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