Lisa's week: Quick Tip of the Week – question tags (part 1)
This week and next week’s Quick Tip of the Week is about something that we use quite often in English but many of my students are unsure about. There’s not a good direct comparison in German which can also create some insecurity in how to form them or when they should be used.
I’m here to help!
Question tags are those few words at the end of a positive or negative statement that can turn the whole sentence into a question. Now that’s an easy description, isn’t it?
See what I did there?
I added two words to the end of my statement, turned it into a question and the whole thing invites you, the reader, to agree with me.
I suppose the nearest in German could be “nicht wahr?” or “oder?” or more slang versions such as “ne?”! And yes, we can also add words such as “right?” or “yes?” to the end but I’d like to cover the more formal grammar of tags.
It is formed by creating a statement, which can be in the positive or negative, and then adding the tag using the auxiliary verb that matches the tense of the sentence.
A negative tag is used for a positive statement and a positive tag for a negative one. Now that does sound a bit more complicated than it really is, doesn’t it?
Let’s try some examples to help to make it clearer:
- The weather isn’t very good today, is it?
- They played a really good game yesterday, didn’t they?
- You will be late tonight, won’t you?
- We have done all we can on this report, haven’t we?
- He doesn’t eat meat, does he?
- You are going away on holiday next week, aren’t you?
- You haven’t been listening to me, have you?
- I have your attention, don’t I?
- I expect you’d like a cup of tea, wouldn’t you?
- She hadn’t done any of her chores before she left, had she?
- She is so talented, isn’t she? She hasn’t made a single mistake, has she?
- They didn’t tidy their room, did they? They’ll get into trouble, won’t they?
- Oh no! We’ve broken down, haven’t we? And we’re not in the ADAC, are we?
- You can’t come to the cinema, can you? You’ll be revising for your exam, won’t you?
As you can see – positive statement followed by a negative tag, negative statement followed by a positive tag.
Each of these questions invites the other person to agree with the original statement so you need to remember that if you want to disagree, yes and no are used in different ways in the negative form.
You are finishing work early today, aren’t you?
Yes. (Yes, I am finishing work today.)
No. (No, I’m not finishing work today.)
She didn’t go to the doctor, did she?
No. (No, she didn’t go to the doctor – I’m agreeing with your statement.)
Yes. (Yes, she went to the doctor – I’m contradicting your statement.)
I think that’s enough for now, isn’t it?
I’ll be back next week with part two which covers a couple of irregularities as well as how you can use your voice with question tags to mean different things!
What is Lisa's week?
"We’ve (hopefully) been entertaining you so far with the meaning and background of a weekly English idiom and now we’ve decided to expand that a little to give me the chance to share some details that come my way in my daily life as a Business English teacher. I hope to find weekly tidbits of information and experience to tell you about such as British traditions that I (or we) celebrate, or typical mistakes made when speaking English, or even some of the funny things I come across in my daily life. We hope that you’ll enjoy the insight into the life of a Brit in Germany!"
Episode 1: The Queen's 90th birthday
Episode 2: What did you do last Sunday?
Episode 3: What's the best way to answer?
Episode 4: The sound of London
Episode 5: Not just a last resort
Episode 6: Quick tip of the week: advice vs. advise
Episode 7: Title talk
Episode 8: The Union Jack
Episode 9: Why Thursday?
Episode 10: Quick tip of the week - Are you watching or just looking?
Episode 11: Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness
Episode 12: Don't forget to take you handy to the public viewing!
Episode 13: Up in the Highlands
Episode 14: Quick tip of the week - "Popular" false friends
Episode 15: Pie in the sky
Episode 16: Through the tunnel
Episode 17: Keep left!
Episode 18: Quick tip of the week - Rise vs. raise vs. arise
Episode 19: How do you say that?
Episode 20: Back to School!
Episode 21: Sweet cravings
Episode 22: Can you change a fiver?
Episode 23: Grabbing some "me time"
Episode 24: Typical Mistakes (part 1)
Episode 25: Fancy a cuppa?
Episode 26: Quip tip of the week - Fell vs. fall etc.
Episode 27: Things that go bump in the night!
Episode 28: Remember, remember the fifth of November, gunpower, treason and plot
Episode 29: What's that badge you're wearing?
Episode 30: Bless you!
Episode 31: What are you thankful for?
Episode 32: Where's the larget Christmas Market outside Germany or Austria?
Episode 33: What's behind the door?
Episode 34: The joy of a Christmas cracker!
Episode 35: Does it all fit on the table?
Episode 36: Seeing in the New Year
Episode 37: How are your resolutions going?
Episode 38: Quick tip of the week - "Popular" false friends - part 2
Episode 39: What will the Year of the Rooster mean for you?
Episode 40: Sweet Valentine
Episode 41: A Reminder
Episode 42: I'll have mine with sugar and lemon juice, please!
Episode 43: The joy of golden daffodils
Episode 44: To correct or not to correct, that is the question
Episode 45: The whole world's going green!
Episode 46: Idiom of the week - Raining cats and dogs
Episode 47: The joke's on you!
Episode 48: Left over from the Middle Ages!
Episode 49: More calendar food-based ponderings
Episode 50: We use German words too
Episode 51: Celebrating St George
Episode 52: The perfect start to the day
Episode 53: The tiny apostrophe is actually something big (part 1)
Episode 54: The tiny apostrophe is actually something big (part 2)
Episode 55: The tiny apostrophe is actually something big (part 3)
Episode 56: Holiday season is coming!
Episode 57; ‘Tis the season (of Bank Holidays) – part 1
Episode 58; ‘Tis the season (of Bank Holidays) – part 2
Episode 59: Summer Solstice
Episode 60: Harry Potter turns 20
Episode 61: Quick Tip of the Week - live, life, live
Episode 62: Oh I do like to be beside the seaside
Episode 63: I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream!
Episode 64: Stick a stamp on it!
Episode 65: Idiom of the week - Water under the bridge
Episode 66: I say QWERTY, you say QWERTZ
Episode 67: Doing your homework and making mistakes! (Part 1)
Episode 68: Doing your homework and making mistakes! (Part 2)
Episode 69: Joking around in Scotland
Episode 70: The first day of school
Episode 71: Let's go down to the Wiesn!
Episode 72: Celebrating language
Episode 73: It's a Harry thing!
Episode 74: My favourite time of the year
Episode 75: TED-Ideas Worth Spreading
Episode 76: Grinning like a Cheshire cat
Episode 77: Enjoying the downtime
Episode 78: Talking Tenners
Episode 79: Do you need anything from the Hight Street?
Episode 80: Just another few minutes!
Episode 81: Counting the cards on my shelf.
Episode 82: What sign are you?
Episode 83: Great if you have a sweet tooth
Episode 84: It's an acquired taste!
Episode 85: New Year's Resolutions
Episode 86: Quick Tip of the week - go/come & take/bring
Episode 87: My Luve is Like a Red Red Rose
Episode 88: Once in a blue moon
Episode 89: Learning by Listening - part 1
Episode 90: Learning by Listening - part 2
Episode 91: This is the travel news!
Episode 92: The "Beast from the East" hits Western Europe!
Episode 93: The flu hits Lisa's Week
Episode 94: Spring forward and fall back
Episode 95: Holy Week
Episode 96: Quick Tip of the Week - prepositons of time
Episode 97: Perfect for dunking!
Episode 98: Part of the family
Episode 99: It's a boy!
Episode 100: Happy Anniversary to me!
Episode 101: To all the mothers out there
Episode 102: Up, up and away
Episode 103: A very British affair!
Episode 104: Getting boarded!
Episode 105: How do you say that?
Episode 106: Ready for departure?
Episode 107: Happy Father's Day
Episode 108: I'm leaving... on a jet plane... (Part 4)
Episode 109: Can football really come home?
Episode 110: A right royal christening
Episode 111: Touch down!
Episode 112: 70 years of public healthcare
Episode 113: The same but different
Episode 114: A long hot summer
Episode 115: Germany through a visitor's eyes