martes, 7 de septiembre de 2010

Questions tags

Question tags are very common in spoken English. Speakers use them to keep the conversation going by involving listeners and inviting them to participate. A question tag is a statement followed by a mini-question, the question tag.

The most common structure in question tags is that in which
either a positive statement takes a negative question tag
or a negative statement takes a positive question tag.

Positive statement, + negative question tag: Snow is white, isn’t it?
Negative statement, + positive question tag: You don’t like me, do you?

We repeat the auxliary verb of the statement in the question tag. If there is no auxiliary, we use do/does/did.

Positive statement
Negative statement

You are sick, aren’t you?You aren’t sick, are you?
It is true, isn’t it?It isn’t true, is it?
I am OK, aren’t I? (no amn’t I?)I’m not OK, am I?
I will sleep, won’t I?I won’t sleep, will I?
You can swim, can’t you?You can’t swim, can you?
They like it, don’t they?They don’t like it, do they?
They did their work, didn’t they?They didn’t do their work, did they?
They have money, don’t they?They don’t have money, do they?
They ate it, didn’t they?They didn’t eat it, did they?
He's been to the UK, hasn't he?He hasn't been to the UK, has he?

We can also use question tags as real questions, but if this is the case there is a variation in the intonation of the statement. If we are guessing (You are from Korea, aren't you?) or we really want to find out information (You are in advertising, aren't you?), the question tag has a rising intonation, similar to a yes-no question.

But in most cases, if we only want to engage the listener in conversation or give emphasis to what we are saying, the question tag has a falling intonation, similar to a statement (Beautiful day, isn't it?)

LinguaSpectrum has an excellent video guide on question tags.

Self-study activity: What are the question tags corresponding to these statements?

1. They enjoy playing football,
2. She isn’t thinking of moving,
3. He can drive a car,
4. She hasn’t studied for very long,
5. Jack bought a new car last week,
6. They aren’t serious,
7. You live in an apartment,
8. She doesn’t speak Russian,
9. They won’t shut up,
10. He isn’t concentrating,
11. They hadn’t visited you before,
12. This music is fantastic,

Key: 1 don't they? 2 isn't she? 3 can't he? 4 has she? 5 didn't he? 6 are they? 7 don't you? 8 does she? 9 will they? 10 is he? 11 had they? 12 isn't it?

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