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Tag question

From Teflpedia

A tag question (/tæg kwesʧən/) or tail question (/teɪl kwesʧən/) is a type of polar question formed by adding a question tag to the end of a statement.

For example, in English:

  • It’s nice here, isn't it?

Form[edit | edit source]

Question tags are almost exclusively used in the spoken language or perhaps in quite informal written registers.

The same auxiliary verb is used as in the statement. Note this may be a hidden do.

Generally, the polarity of the question tag is the opposite to that of the statement. However if the sentence is sarcastic it can be the same.

Falling intonation in the question tag indicates that the speaker believes the statement is likely truthful. Rising intonation indicates the speaker believes is unsure whether or not the statement is truthful.

EFL students are sometimes confused whether a yes or no answer is appropriate; one way to help is to coach them to answer polar questions with subject and auxiliary instead of just a "yes" or "no".

One problem which non-native speakers have with question tags is the question of intonation which native speakers use to add meaning to their question tags. How many emotions can you put into a simple question such as: “We’re not lost, are we?

Positive statement, negative tag[edit | edit source]


  • It’s nice here, isn't it?

Usage, encourage conversation.

Negative statement, positive tag.[edit | edit source]

  • You don't like beetroot, do you?

Usage, obtain a real response. The speaker believes that the listener doesn't like beetroot.

Positive statement, positive tag[edit | edit source]


You know the answer, do you?

Usage, sarcasm. aggression.

References[edit | edit source]