English grammar – Tag questions

Form

auxiliary verb + subject

  1. We use the same auxiliary verb in the tag as in the main sentence. If there is no auxiliary verb in the main sentence, we use do in the tag.
    • You live in Spain, don’t you?
  2. If the auxiliary verb in the sentence is affirmative, the tag is negative.
    • You’re Spanish, aren’t you?
  3. If the auxiliary verb in the sentence is negative, the tag is affirmative.
    • You’re not Spanish, are you?

Meaning

  1. We use tag questions to Confirm or check information or ask for agreement.
    • You want to come with me, don’t you?
    • You can swim, can’t you?
    • You don’t know where the boss is, do you?
    • This meal is horrible, isn’t it?
    • That film was fantastic, wasn’t it?
  2. We use tag questions to Check whether something is true.
    • The meeting’s tomorrow at 9am, isn’t it?
    • You won’t go without me, will you?

Additional points

  1. In the present form of be: if the subject is “I”, the auxiliary changes to are or aren’t in the tag question.
    • I’m sitting next to you, aren’t I?
    • I’m a little red, aren’t I?
  2. With let’s, the tag question is shall we?
    • Let’s go to the beach, shall we?
    • Let’s have a coffee, shall we?
  3. With an imperative, the tag question is will you?
    • Close the window, will you?
    • Hold this, will you?
  4. We use an affirmative tag question after a sentence containing a negative word such as never, hardly, nobody.
    • Nobody lives in this house, do they?
    • You’ve never liked me, have you?
  5. When the subject is nothing, we use “it” in the tag question.
    • Nothing bad happened, did it?
    • Nothing ever happens, does it?
  6. If the subject is nobody, somebody, everybody, no one, someone or everyone, we use “they” in the tag question.
    • Nobody asked for me, did they?
    • Nobody lives here, do they?
  7. If the main verb in the sentence is have (not an auxiliary verb), it is more common to use do in the tag question.
    • You have a Ferrari, don’t you?
    • She had a great time, didn’t she?
  8. With used to, we use “didn’t” in the tag question.
    • You used to work here, didn’t you?
    • He used to have long hair, didn’t he?
  9. We can use affirmative tag questions after affirmative sentences to express a reaction such as surprise or interest.
    • You’re moving to Brazil, are you?

Pronunciation

  1. If we don’t know the answer, it is a real question and we use a rising intonation with the tag question.
    • You don’t know where the boss is, do you? ↗
  2. If we know the answer and are just confirming the information a falling intonation is used with the tag question.
    • That film was fantastic, wasn’t it? ↘

Related grammar points

Questions

51 teaching ideas and comments

  1. Cin

    After I introduce the topic, we usually play bingo with tag endings. I give students cards like the bingo ones with different tag endings (for example …, did she? …, haven’t they?). Then I take a paper and read the sentence:

    “She went to the supermarket.”

    If they have a possible ending, they cross it out. The idea is to complete the card first. Students enjoy the game a lot! They have to pay attention to the tense and pronoun used.

  2. Indusehgal

    Put some sentences and question tags on cards. Stick the sentences on the wall and distribute the cards with question tags among the students. Ask them to move around and put the tag on the appropriate sentence.

  3. Lira Rodri­guez

    This is an exercise to test students’ ability to come up with quick answers, and it’s very simple. The main pupose is to speed up students’ minds and enabe them to use the structure as fast as they can.

    Make a list of sentences covering most structures and tenses (affirmative and negative in random order). You read out one of your sentences in the list and assign one of your students to come up with the proper tag. The student has only one chance to answer. If they are wrong, you go to the next student for the right tag. You should get the right tag before moving on.This exercise is fast and there are no explanations on why the answers they come up with are right or wrong. Students realize their mistakes through their classmates’ answers.

    They get a little stressed out because when their turn comes, they tend to panic trying to think of the right tag. This is good because it gets their minds used to responding quickly and directly in English and avoids over-thinking structures and translating from their native language.

  4. Ramzy Metwaly

    You forgot to tell us the difference between let’s…? and let us… in suggestions and requests
    e.g.
    1 – Let’s go to the zoo, shall we?
    2 – Let us go to the zoo, will you?

    However I think this is the best explanation for tag question on the internet, thanks.

    • ABUADAM

      how to ask in this below case :
      let him / me go ……………………………. ?
      in case of using the pronoun him and in case of using any other pronoun
      thanks

      • Eslbase

        Abuadam, these are imperatives, and in imperatives the subject is always “you”. So the question tags will be like this:

        Let him go, will you?
        Let me go, will you?

        Or…

        Let him go, won’t you?
        Let me go, won’t you?

  5. sontakke j d

    Imperative tag
    Stop here, will you?
    Stop here, won’t you?
    Both are possible.
    How’s that?

    • Eslbase

      Thanks for the question! What we’re talking about here is question tags with imperative sentences. These are a bit of a special case. We normally use “will you” or “would you” as the tag in imperative sentences, but “won’t you” is also possible.

  6. Yuliya

    If we have Little or few, the tag is negative? Iittle is done, isn’t it or little is done, is it?

  7. Leena

    Is it correct to say: Nothing mentioned, did it?

    • Eslbase

      Hi Leena

      Did you mean to say:

      “Nothing was mentioned”?

      If so, then the correct question tag would be:

      “Nothing was mentioned, was it?”

      • Leena

        No,I didn’t mean to say that.
        I want to know what is the question tag for the sentence “Nothing mentioned”

        • Eslbase

          Hi Leena

          The sentence “Nothing mentioned” doesn’t look like a complete sentence. Do you have an example of a conversation where we would find this sentence?

          • zia

            yes.
            it could be….
            nothing was mentioned.
            Nothing is mentioned.

  8. Paja Tapuih

    Hai…
    I still confuse about using “hardly ever” and “rarely”.
    A word with a negative meaning, the question tag needs to be positive, How many words like that?

  9. Darya

    Hello, I’d like to learn what tag question is correct: You have a brother, don’t you? or You have a brother, haven’t you?

    • Eslbase

      Hi Darya

      You have a brother, don’t you? is correct.

      Hope that helps.

  10. Ivan

    Hi!
    There won’t be 10 people, will they?
    Is it correct?

    • Eslbase

      Hi Ivan

      “There won’t be 10 people, will there?” is correct.

  11. NGENDAKUNANA EGIDE

    Help me this: Every person should respect the authorities, shouldn’t they? Is it correct or not?

    • Eslbase

      Hi Ngendakunana

      To see if this is correct, let’s think of a sentence starting with “Every person…”:

      “Every person has to sit down”.

      We can see from this sentence that the subject “Every person” takes the third person singular form of the verb (has). This means that the subject that we put in the question tag should be in the third person singular form too. So your sentence should read:

      “Every person should respect the authorities, shouldn’t he?”

      BUT…

      Not everyone is a “he” so it does’t seem right to say this. Also, not everyone is a “she” so we can’t use this either. In these circumstances, the common thing to do is to use “they”, exactly like you did.

      So your sentence is correct!

  12. Rey D

    “No one will be coming, will they?”
    Is this grammatically correct?

    • Eslbase

      Hi Rey D

      This is similar to the comment above from Ngendakunana. if we start a sentence with the subject “No one” we can see that it takes the third person singular form of the verb:

      “No one has seen him”.

      So the subject in the question tag should also be in the third person singular form (“he” or “she”). But not everyone is a “he” and not everyone is a “she”, so the common thing to do is to use “they”.

      So your sentence is correct!

  13. Mohamed abderazek

    It’s too hot to drink, is it ? Is that correct?

    • Eslbase

      Hi Mohamed

      The correct sentence is: It’s too hot to drink, isn’t it?

  14. Irina

    Tell me please, it is correct to say:
    Everyone ought to respect the elders, shouldn’t they?

    • Eslbase

      Hi Irina

      “Ought to” and “should” have the same meaning so this is just okay, although it sounds a little strange because you are using a different modal verb in the question tag.

      You could say “Everyone ought to respect their elders, oughtn’t they?”

      …but “oughtn’t they” sounds a bit heavy. So it might be better to say “Everyone should respect their elders, shouldn’t they?”

  15. Yehia Osman

    Please could any one recommend me a perfect and absolute Grammar reference since most of these references have their own defects ?

    • Eslbase

      Hi Yehia

      I don’t think such a thing exists!

      English grammar is constantly evolving and changing, and as a result different people have different interpretations of grammar rules, and place more or less importance on different aspects of the language.

      These different perspectives depend not only on the fact that grammar is changing, but also on why a particular grammar reference is written and for whom, the background of the author, and many other factors.

      Hope that helps.

    • Rejilkumar

      Is there any rules to be applied for imperative sentences like negative imperative followed by will you……

      • Eslbase

        Hi Rejilkumar

        With negative imperative sentences, we use “will” in the tag:

        Don’t wait too long, will you?

        Hope that helps.

  16. Leyla

    Every young girl and boy wants to be happy, doesn’t he?
    Every young girl and boy wants to be happy, don’t they?
    Which is correct ?

    • Eslbase

      Hi Leyla

      “Every young girl and boy wants to be happy, don’t they?”

      This is correct. “Every young girl and boy” is similar to saying “Everyone”. if you have a look at number 6 in the article above, you will see that with “everyone” we use “they” in the tag question.

  17. mutoz

    I am going to stay a hotel which i stayed last year.
    How it would be in tag

  18. huy comf

    Can you tell me:

    “Nobody but you noticed my existence,……………?”

    • Eslbase

      Nobody but you noticed my existence, did they?

  19. nafisa

    There is little we can do for him —–?

    • Eslbase

      There is little we can do for him, isn’t there?

      • Ranjith

        if the word “little” comes then it’s a negative sentence so the answer will be – is there ?

  20. Rahul

    Please its urgent.

    Answer this question.

    Every adult has the right to marry,______?

    which is the best question tag here?

    • Eslbase

      Every adult has the right to marry, don’t they?

      • Rahul

        Thanks ESLbase. I wrote the same in an exam and they say haven’t they is the answer for this question.

        Can you give me one source/book which explains the usage of don’t they in this case?

        I need to file a complaint against them. I need a source to produce.

        • Eslbase_558

          Hi Rahul

          The usage of “don’t they” in this example follows the rule for all question tags: We take the auxiliary verb from the main clause and use it in the tag. In the absence of an auxiliary verb in the main clause, we use “do” in the tag (or does, or did).

          So, in your example, there is no auxiliary verb in the main clause – “has” is the main verb here. As a result we use “do” in the tag.

          Now, in spoken English we hear many instances where these “rules” are broken, and that’s because English grammar rules are not set in stone. That’s how the language evolves, as different ways of saying things become common and accepted and therefore a part of the language. Using “haven’t they” in your example is an example of this. BUT – you certainly shouldn’t have been penalised for using “don’t they” as this is perfectly correct.

          I don’t have a specific source which quotes this example exactly, but, for example “Practical English Usage” by Michael Swan, a respected grammar reference, states the rule I have explained above.

  21. Ranjith

    come on time, ______ ?

    • Eslbase_558

      Can you give the full sentence before the tag?

  22. priyanka

    I saw the helicopter will be changed into
    “did I saw the helicopter ”

    is it correct??

  23. niloy

    Either John or his sister rebuked us,………..?
    what’s the correct tag of this sentence?

    • Eslbase_558

      …didn’t they?

  24. Riken

    Hi, ESLbase..
    I just saw that the term “someone” is the same as “everyone, nobody, etc”

    So “Someone called me last night, didn’t they?”
    Is that correct?

    • Eslbase_558

      Hi Riken – yes, that’s correct to say that.

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