It’s Matt here, Director of Studies at Langports Brisbane. Today, we are going to look at a bit of grammar, specifically we are going to review the use of question tags (aren’t we? – a joke for all you guys familiar with this language point!).
So, the first thing is:
Well, it is a small question that usually comes at the end of a sentence in speech (and sometimes informal writing): For example:
This food is delicious, isn’t it?
You did your homework, didn’t you?
In the first example, the verb to be (is) is contracted in the question tag – isn’t
In the second example, the verb did is contracted – didn’t
You can see that the verb tense doesn’t change in each sentence. If you start with a present simple infinitive, finish the sentence in present simple infinitive. If you start with a past simple verb, finish in the past simple verb and so on.
We can reserve this pattern above from positive to negative and make the sentence pattern negative to positive. For example:
This food isn’t delicious, is it?
You didn’t do your homework, did you?
However, we can’t use a question tag after a question. For example, you can’t say:
Is this food delicious, isn’t it? XXX
Did you do your homework, didn’t you? XXX
So, question tags can be used to check whether something is true or to ask for agreement. If you can use them correctly in your everyday speaking, it shows you have a good understanding of the language and you can impress your teachers and friends with your range of English!
You can also use it in your writing, especially informally in emails or possibly articles (see early blog post on register in writing).
Words that are often used in question tags include:
Verb to be
One last thing to remember is that if the sentence you are trying to question tag doesn’t have one of the above listed verbs, you need to change the verb in the question tag to do. For example
You take milk in your coffee, don’t you?
He played football every Saturday, didn’t he?
Now, you will go forth and practice, won’t you?
Until the next time…
Matt Hopkins – Director of Studies, Brisbane School
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