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Question tags are used be native English speakers all the time. They are very common ways to ask or check information in spoken English. This video explains what you need to know about question tags and how to use them correctly. Download the free worksheet to practice what you learn after watching this video!
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Asking questions in English is so important for conversation and for meeting new people. I’m Emma from mmmEnglish and in this lesson I’m going to show you how to use question tags correctly.
Question tags are really short questions that are put onto the end of statements (or regular sentences) so that they become questions.
“He’s from Brazil, isn’t he?”
“You’re hungry, aren’t you?”
“They can’t afford to buy a house, can they?”
Question tags are mostly used in spoken English and Native English speakers use them all the time – now that you know about them, you will hear them all the time!
Now, there’s lots of different types of question tags but one great piece of news is that the rules are kind of simple to learn.
There’s a couple of exceptions but generally the rules are pretty clear and simple. So, let’s get started!
So, what are question tags?
They are questions, but they use a different structure to regular questions. They’re a short question that we put on the end of a sentence or a statement.
Here’s a regular question: “Are you coming to the party?”
Here’s a sentence: “You are coming to the party.”
And here’s a question tag: “You are coming to the party, aren’t you?”
Suddenly, we’ve got a question!
“You are coming to the party, aren’t you?”
So, let me show you how to use question tags. It’s simple!
You take a statement: “They are coming”.
And then you add your question tag: “aren’t they?”
So we have our subject and auxiliary verb and our main verb in our statement and in our question tag we’ve also got our auxiliary verb, we have a negative (we have “not”) and we have a personal pronoun which matches the subject.
Got it? You’ll see patterns between the main statement and the question tag. You’ll see that the subject needs to match the pronoun. The auxiliary verbs need to be the same.
Now, in this example the statement is positive but if we change our statement to a negative, watch what happens to the question tag.
“You aren’t coming to the party, are you?”
We have the subject, our auxiliary verb, the negative “not” and our main verb. Then in the question tag we have our auxiliary verb and our personal pronoun that matches the subject.
So, see that the statement and the question tag needs to be opposites. If the statement is positive then the question tag is negative. If the statement’s negative then the question tag is positive!
So, pay attention to the statement! You need to know if it’s positive or negative in order to make your question tag correctly!
“You haven’t been to Melbourne, have you?”
“You don’t like playing football, do you?”
Next, if your statement has a modal verb like “will” or “should” or “could” or “can”, then it follows the same pattern. The modal verb needs to be in the question tag!
“Your brother can help us, can’t he?”
“We shouldn’t be doing this, should we?”
Now if the main verb is “do” or “be” or “have”, and notice that these are all verbs that can also be auxiliary verbs but if they’re in a sentence as a main verb then they can be used in the question tag.
“You are hungry, aren’t you?”
“You aren’t hungry, are you?”
“That’s your brother, isn’t it?”
“That’s not your brother, is it?”
But there are a couple of rules to remember when you’re using question tags with these verbs!
Let’s start with “do”.
So in positive English sentences, often we leave “do” out. We don’t use it, we don’t include it in our sentences. It’s not common to say “I do like playing football”, I would just say “I like playing football”.
So, what does that mean for your question tag? Well, you have to pretend that it’s there!
“I like to play football, don’t I?”
“She does cook on Tuesday nights.”
So we would really say:
“She cooks on Tuesday nights.”
And our question tag would be:
“She cooks on Tuesday nights, doesn’t she?”
There’s also an important rule to remember about the “be” verb as well. Let’s look at this statement:
“I am flying to London tomorrow”.
Now if we were to try to make a question tag out of this statement, then naturally, you would say:
“I am flying to London tomorrow, amn’t I?”
You take the auxiliary verb from the main statement and move it to the question tag but this is WRONG!
Don’t ask questions about this rule! It doesn’t make any sense!!
But when you have the “be” verb with the subject “I” in the statement then in the question tag you need to use “are”.
So, for this example, you would say:
“I am flying to London tomorrow, aren’t I?”
Now let’s practice a few question tags together. I want you to do the work now. So, I want you to complete these sentences with a question tag.
I am running late, aren’t I?
He doesn’t usually ride his bike to work, does he?
You’ve been living here for two years, haven’t you?
He wouldn’t go there on the weekend though, would he?
I haven’t got much money left, have I?
We need to leave by 5 o’clock, don’t we?
She should have finished by now, shouldn’t she?
Nice work! I bet you did really well then!
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Thanks for watching and I will see you in the next lesson! Bye for now!