Grammar

Question Tags and Short Answers English Grammar

by VIDYANAND

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What is a Question Tag? 

A question tag is a grammatical structure where a short question is asked at the end of a sentence to express interest rather than seek information. Question tags are used to keep the conversation open. 

Examples

  • This must be steamed first, mustn’t it?
  • There isn’t a single library in my area, is there?
  • Raman already paid the bill online, didn’t he?
  • The teacher will mark you absent if you don’t finish this assignment, won’t she?

The phrases in blue are question tags.

Question Tags – Pattern

For positive statements: Question tag = Auxiliary + n’t + Subject

  • Rajlakshmi has peeled the potatoes, hasn’t she?
  • Dharma and Punit went cycling, didn’t they?

For negative statements: Question tag = Auxiliary + Subject

  • The boys didn’t like to stay in the hostel, did they?
  • The journey wasn’t so tiring after all, was it?  

It is easy to form a question tag: 

  1. Rewrite the sentence replacing the full-stop with a comma (,).
  2. Change the verb in the sentence to its contracted form for negative tagging.
  3. Add the appropriate verb for positive tagging.
  4. Add the appropriate pronoun after the verb/contraction.       

Add a question mark (?) to finish. 

Examples

  • Sameer borrowed your pen two days ago , didn’t he? 
  • She couldn’t have walked home with all the bags , could she? 
  • Daddy used to spend his Sundays in the garage, didn’t he? 
  • The scientists were shocked to see the footage , weren’t they? 
  • Tanya is the best artist I know         , isn’t she?

How to Form Question Tags

What are Short Answers? 

  • Short answers are generally used in direct speech or during an engaging conversation.  
  • The questions to short answers usually begin with auxiliary verbs. 

Short Answer – Pattern

Yes + Pronoun + Auxiliary

Or

No + Pronoun + Auxiliary + n’t (not)

Examples

Will Mr Wilson allow Dennis inside his house?

  • Yes, he will.
  • No, he won’t/will not.

Could this have been a planned robbery?

  • Yes, it could have.
  • No, it couldn’t have/could not have.

Is Faisal asleep?

  • Yes, he is.
  • No, he isn’t.

Agreements with Statements

Agreements with affirmative statements are made with

Yes/So/Of course + Pronoun + Auxiliary

Examples

  • It is a good book. – Yes, it is.
  • Leena has already come. – So she has.
  • He can speak Italian very well. – Of course, he can.
  • He looks dishonest. – Yes, he does.

Agreements with negative statements are made with

No + Pronoun + Auxiliary + n’t/not

Examples

  • The fruits aren’t good. – No, they aren’t.
  • Hamsa doesn’t like butter. – No, she doesn’t.
  • Rashmi hasn’t bought the car yet. – No, she hasn’t.
  • They haven’t played well. – No, they haven’t.

Disagreements with Statements

 Disagreements with affirmative statements are made with

No/Oh no + Pronoun + Auxiliary + n’t/not

But is used in disagreement with a question or an assumption

Examples

  • The cakes are stale. – Oh no, they aren’t.
  • You are joking. – Oh no, I am not.
  • Why did you steal the money? – But I didn’t.
  • I suppose he knows Photoshop. – But he doesn’t.

Disagreements with negative statements are made with

(Oh) yes (Oh) but + Pronoun + Auxiliary

Examples

  • You can’t read that. – Yes, I can.
  • They won’t come again. – But they will.
  • You don’t know Cheryl. – Oh yes, I do.
  • I didn’t break the glass. – Oh, but you did.