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Business English Skill Set - Small Talk

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Lesson 4, Topic 2

Tag Questions

Kate July 23, 2020
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As we discussed in the introduction, a tag question can be used to confirm information, or to invite someone’s opinion on a topic.

Tag questions can be affirmative or negative.

  • With an affirmative statement, use a negative tag question to confirm.
  • With a negative statement, use an affirmative tag question to confirm.

Like so:

Jennifer has worked with the London team before, hasn’t she?

In this example, an affirmative statement (Jennifer has worked) is confirmed with a tag question using a negative auxiliary (hasn’t).

Daniel didn’t join the company until late last year, did he?

In this example, a negative statement (Daniel didn’t join) is confirmed with a tag question using an affirmative auxiliary (did).


Rules for forming tag questions

Use the auxiliary or tense from the statement in the tag question. (i.e. If I make a statement in the future with will, use ‘won’t’ in the tag question.)

Tag questions use the shortened form of the auxiliary. (didn’t, haven’t, can’t etc) i.e. It would be incorrect to say “You did the reports, did not you?” or: “You have been to Berlin, have not you?”


A note on the first person and verb to be

There is an exception with the first person ‘I’ and the verb to be.

The normal conjugation of the verb to be with ‘I’ is ‘am.’

For affirmative tag questions, use the verb ‘am’ (as normal).

For example: “I’m not on the list, am I?”

For a negative tag question only, use ‘aren’t I’?

For example: “I’m on the list, aren’t I?”


Activity

If you’re studying with a partner or friend, have a go at asking each other the tag questions from this British Council worksheet.

Or how about a game of Who am I? – play this classic question game but instead of direct questions, ask with tag questions.

Book a one-to-one lesson with an Intrepid English teacher to practise tag questions by clicking the button below.