Tag Questions (Câu hỏi đuôi)

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I. Definition & Usage:

A tag question is a special construction in English. It is a statement followed by a mini-question. The whole sentence is a “tag question”, and the mini-question at the end is called a “question tag”.

We use tag questions at the end of statements to ask for confirmation. They mean something like: “Am I right?” or “Do you agree?” They are very common in English.

III. Structures:

1. Basic structure:

Positive statement

Negative tag

E.g.: Snow is white,

isn’t it?

Negative statement

Positive tag

E.g.: You don’t like me,

do you?

2. Special cases:

I am right, aren’t I? (not “am not I”)
Nothing came in the post, did it?
Let’s go, shall we? (let’s = let us)

Question tags with imperatives

Sometimes we use question tags with imperatives (invitations, orders), but the sentence remains imperative and does not require a direct answer. We use “won’t” for invitations. We use “can, can’t, will, would” for orders.


imperative + question tag

notes

Invitation

Take a seat, won’t you?

polite

Order

Help me, can you?

quite friendly

Help me, can’t you?

quite friendly (some irritation)

Close the door, would you?

quite polite

Do it now, will you?

less polite

Don’t forget, will you?

with negative imperatives only “will” is possible

Same-way question tags

Although the basic structure of tag questions is positive-negative or negative-positive, it is sometime possible to use a positive-positive or negative-negative structure. We use same-way question tags to express interest, surprise, anger etc, and not to make real questions.

E.g.:

So you’re having a baby, are you? That’s wonderful!
She wants to marry him, does she? Some chance!
So you think that’s amusing, do you? Think again.

Negative-negative tag questions usually sound rather hostileExplanationthù địch e.g. So you don’t like my looks, don’t you?

IV. Answers to tag questions

Generally, to answer a tag question, we say “Yes” or “No”. Sometimes we may repeat the tag and reverse it (…, do they? Yes, they do).

Note: Answer a tag question according to the truth of the situation. Your answer reflects the real facts, not (necessarily) the question. For example, everyone knows that snow is white.

Look at these questions, and choose the correct answers:

Tag question

Correct answer



Snow is white, isn’t it?

Yes (it is).

the answer is the same in both cases – because snow IS WHITE!

Notice the change of stress when the answerer does not agree with the questioner

Snow isn’t white, is it?

Yes it is!

Snow is black, isn’t it?

No it isn’t!

the answer is the same in both cases – because snow IS NOT BLACK!

Snow isn’t black, is it?

No (it isn’t).

More examples (followed by correct answers):

The moon goes round the earth, doesn’t it? Yes, it does.
The earth is bigger than the moon, isn’t it? Yes.
The earth is bigger than the sun, isn’t it? No, it isn’t!
Asian people don’t like rice, do they? Yes, they do!
Elephants live in Europe, don’t they? No, they don’t!
Men don’t have babies, do they? No.
The English alphabet doesn’t have 40 letters, does it? No, it doesn’t.

Tests you might want to take

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