Tag Questions

A "question tag", also known as "tag question" or "question tail", is a grammatical structure added at the end of a declarative sentence, seeking confirmation or agreement from the listener. The purpose of question tags is to seek agreement, confirmation, or clarification from the listener.

Read the following explanation to learn how tag questions are formed.

How to Form Tag Question

Statement + Auxiliary Verb/ Be Verb + Personal Pronoun Subject [?]

Question tags are formed by using an "auxiliary verb" or "be verb" and a "personal pronoun" that matches the subject of the sentence. 

Examples of Tag Questions: In the following sentences, statements are shaded and tag questions are underlined

  • You're going to the party, aren't you?
  • She is a doctor, isn't she?
  • They've already left, haven't they?

Assertive Sentence

Rule 1. If the statement is affirmative, tag question will be negative.

You are late, aren't you?
She was there, wasn't she?
The earth goes round the sun, doesn't it?
Jessica broke the window, didn't she? 

Rule 2. If the statement is negative, tag question will be affirmative

He will not come, will he?
They have not gone there, have they?
Nothing is certain here, is it?
Mark never helped me, did he?

Rule 3. The subject of the tag question is a subject pronoun (Iweyouhesheit, or they). Don't use any other pronoun.

Rule 4. If the statement has a be verb or an auxiliary verb, we use it to form tag question. 

He is not happy, is he?
Time will say, won't it?
She does not come here, does she?
You are not lazy, are you?
Rule 5. For sentences without auxiliary verbs, we do the following things:
(i) If the verb is in the present form, we use do/ does in the question.
You work at home, don’t you?
It costs 10 taka, doesn’t it?
It rains in July, doesn’t it?
Father works abroad, doesn’t he?
We live in village, don’t we?
(ii) If the verb is in the past form, we use did in the tag question.
She went to the cinema, didn’t she?
They worked hard all day, didn’t they?
Anny visited the zoo, didn’t she?
You helped him, didn’t you?
We started our journey, didn’t you?
Rule 6. Three auxiliary verbs [shall, will, & canare changed when we add n't with them.
I shall help you, shan't I?
They will play today, won't they?
Birds can fly, can't they?
I am here, aren't I?
She used to help us, didn’t she?
Rule 7. Am + Not = Aren’t

The tag question of “I am” is “aren’t I?”

I am your friend, aren't I?
I'm helping you, aren't I?

The tag question of 'I am not' is 'am I?'

I am not stupid, am I?
I'm not disturbing you, am I?

Note: There are 24 auxiliary verbs in English. We can add "n't" with 19 auxiliary verbs without making any change. We don't add "n't" with "am" & "used to". Three  auxiliary verbs [shall, will, & can] are changed when we add "n't" with them. So, remember the following 3 auxiliary verbs.

shall + not = shan’t

will + not = won’t

can + not = can’t

Rule 8. If the subject is an indefinite pronoun implying a person, [everybody, everyone, anybody, anyone, somebody, someone, nobody, no one, none, neither, either], the subject of the tag question will be “they” (Unisex they). This is because we cannot say whether the subject is a male or a female. So, we cannot use he or she though the subject is singular. 
Each of them got ten taka, didn't they?
Nobody believes a liar, do they?
Everybody is present here, aren't they?
None has come, have they?
Everything has a name, hasn't it?

Be Careful!

Pronoun 'They' always follow a plural verb. So, never use a singular verb with the pronoun 'they'.

Everyone knows it, don't they?
[not, doesn't they?]
Each has a home, haven't they?
[not, hasn't they?]

Rule 9. scarcelyhardlyrarelyseldom, and few are negative words. So, we add affirmative tag questions after sentences having those negative words.

It hardly rains in winter, does it?
A barking dog seldom bites, does it?
She is scarcely present, is she?
Mark had few friends, did he?

Note: scarcelyhardlyrarelyseldomfew means ‘almost not

Rule 10. If need and dare are used as Modal Verbs, tag question is ‘need / dare + Subject’.

We need not meet, need we?
You dare not drive at night, dare you?

Rule 11. If need and dare are Principal Verbs, tag question is ‘don’t/ doesn’t + Subject’.

You need to think about it, don't you?
We needed a shelter, didn't we?
Who dare, do they?
She needs it, doesn't she?

Rule 12. If the subject is somethinganythingeverything, or nothing, the subject of tag will be it. 

Everything was alright, wasn't it?
Nothing can satisfy him, can it?
Something doesn't like a wall, does it?
Anything is alright, isn't it?

Rule 13. If the sentence has the dummy subject There, this there will be the subject of the tag question.

There is no king in China, is there?
There are few mistakes in her essay, are there?
There lived a king in a country, didn't there?

Rule 14. Common nouns functioning as Abstract nouns.

If the subject of the statement is a common noun which functions as an abstract noun, the subject of the tag will be it.

The mother rose in her, didn't it?
The girl in her pleases us all, doesn't it?
Every mother loves her child, doesn't she?
The beast in us kills our honesty, doesn't it?

Rule 15. The Adjective as subject. 

Phrases like the + adjective function as plural common noun. So, after sentences containing such phrases, the subject of the tag becomes they. Here are some such phrases for you. The rich , the poor, the neglected, the haves, the brave, the pious, the helpless, the idle, the industrious, the illiterate.

The brave deserve the fair, don't they?
The educated should be free from superstition, shouldn't they?
The poor are neglected, aren't the?
The yellow of an egg is tasty, isn't it?

Imperative Sentence

Rule 16. The tag questions after Imperative Sentences are 'will you?' 'won't you?' 'would you?' 'can you?' 'can't you?' and 'could you?' After negative imperatives, we use will you?

Say something, will you?

Never tell a lie, will you?

Don't bother him, will you?

Have your breakfast, will you?

If the imperative sentence begins with ‘Let us’, the tag question is ‘shall we?’ But if it begins with Let + other object, the tag will be 'will you?' or 'can you?'. 

Let's visit the zoo, shall we?

Let us have some fun, shall we?

Let him do it, will you?

Let Della sell her hair, will you?

Exclamatory Sentence

Rule 17. The tag questions after Exclamatory Sentences are almost same as the tag questions after statements.

How nice the food was! wasn't it?

What a man you are! aren't you?

Alas! He has failed again, hasn't he?

Hurrah! We have won, haven't we?