Question tags are mainly associated with spoken English but you won’t also go wrong using them for written communication.
A question tag, according to the Collins Dictionary, is “a question tag is a very short clause at the end of a statement which changes the statement into a question.”
Examples of question tag (in CAP):
- Peter kicked the ball, DIDN’T HE?
- A cow doesn’t eat grass, DOES IT?
How do you use question tags? What are the rules governing question tags?
Usually, a positive statement is followed by a negative question tag. That means if the statement is in a positive form, the tag should be negative.
- ‘Yinka ate the meat in the pot, DIDN’T SHE?
- Michael was hungry this morning, WASN’T HE?
- The dog pounced on the thief, DIDN’T IT?
On the flip side, whenever there is a negative statement, the question tag would be positive.
- Mansio isn’t coming back to Nigeria, IS HE?
- Nigerians are happy with Buhari’s government after two years, AREN’T THEY?
- We are in the 21st Century, AREN’T WE?
Also, you can use ‘does’ and ‘do’ as the question tag when the verb in the main statement is in simple present tense.
- I play football, DON’T I?
- Vicky writes well, DOESN’T SHE?
- Arsenal plays good football, DON’T THEY?
Note that in positive statements, the question tags are in contracted form or shortened form like AREN’T, SHOULDN’T, CAN’T, WOULDN’T etc.
Some words like neither, no, none, seldom, barely, among others, are tagged as negative statements and thus should be followed by positive question tags.
- Nobody came to the house, DID THEY?
In addition for every question tag, whether positive or negative, you are expected to begin your response with ‘NO’ or ‘YES’.
Examples of such question tags:
- Mansio wouldn’t return to Nigeria, WOULD HE? No, he wouldn’t.
- Nigerians voted for Buhari, DIDN’T THEY? Yes, they did.
You’ve got the drift on question tags, don’t you? Or have you got other examples of question tags?