Sesión 2

You knew there was another way to make questions in English, didn’t you? In this session we look at question tags and how you can use them to turn statements into questions. You want to learn how to make question tags and how to say them, don’t you?

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6 Minute Grammar

Question tags

Catherine's chocolate has gone missing! She thinks Finn ate it, so she asks him this: 'Finn, you didn't eat all the chocolate, did you?'

The phrase 'did you?' is an example of a question tag. Find out all about them in this episode of 6 Minute Grammar.

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Catherine
Hello. Welcome to 6 Minute Grammar with me, Catherine.

Finn
And me, Finn. Hello.

Catherine
Today's programme is about question tags, isn't it Finn?

Finn
Yes, it is Catherine. And, a question tag – also known as a tag question – is a short yes/no question that we put at the end of a statement. Here's an example. Catherine, you live near the station, don't you?

Catherine
I live very near the station, Finn. It's about five minutes from my house. The question tag Finn used was don't you? Finn thinks he knows where I live, but he wants to check. He checks by saying a statement, then adding a short question at the end. Here's Neil with some more examples.

Neil
Mike's working from home today, isn't he?
The kids haven't forgotten to do their homework, have they?     

Finn
Now, forming question tags can be a little tricky, so here are some useful tips:

Catherine
Tip number one: when the statement is positive, the question tag is negative. The statement You live near the station is positive…

Finn
So we add a negative question tag: don't you.

Catherine
Tip two: When the statement is negative, the question tag is positive. Here's a negative statement: You didn't eat all the chocolate

Finn
… with a positive question tag: did you?

Catherine
Actually Finn, talking about chocolate… I left some chocolate her, before. You haven't seen it, have you?

Finn
Chocolate, no.

Catherine
Are you sure?

Finn
No - I think you had it with your coffee, didn't you?

Catherine
Hmm. I'm not sure I did, actually. Anyway, moving on. Tip three. Question tags aren't complete questions: a question tag has just an auxiliary verb and a subject. There isn't a main verb in a question tag. For example, question tags are: are you… did they…

Finn
… don't you… isn't he…

Catherine
And so on. Now for tip four: the auxiliary verb can be positive or negative. Here's Neil.

Neil
You're lying, aren't you?…

Catherine
We have a positive auxiliary verb - are - in the statement…

Finn
… so we make it negative – aren't – in the question tag.

Catherine
A negative auxiliary verb in the statement becomes positive in the tag. Neil.

Neil
You aren't lying, are you?

Catherine
Thank you. Tip five. If there isn't an auxiliary verb in the statement, use the auxiliary verb do in the question tag. Here are some examples:

Neil
They always go by bus, don't they?
You ate my chocolate, didn't you?

Catherine
Don't remind me of chocolate.

Finn
I'm not guilty!

Catherine
So that's auxiliary verbs in question tags. Our next question tags tip is that the subject and tense of the question tag and statement are always the same. So when I say: Finn, you didn't eat my chocolate, did you? The subject is you in the statement and question tag.

Finn
And the tense is past simple in both.

IDENT
You're listening to BBC Learning English.

Finn
We're talking about question tags…

Catherine
… and the mystery of my missing chocolate, Finn!

Finn
Ooh, well! Before that, a word about speaking. Question tags are used mostly in spoken English. We don't use them much in writing. And there are two main reasons to use them in speaking.

Catherine
First, use question tags to get someone to confirm something that we think we already know. For example, Finn… I definitely saw you eating something earlier… You were eating my chocolate, weren't you!?

Finn
Well…

Catherine
Weren't you?!

Finn
Well, yes I was! Catherine, I'll get you some more, I'm sorry. I promise. It's not easy to resist chocolate, is it?

Catherine
Clearly. Clearly not!

Finn
And if you were listening carefully, you probably noticed that Catherine's voice went down, from high to low, when she said the question tag.

Catherine
You were eating my chocolate, weren't you!?…weren't you!?

Finn
And that falling intonation means that Catherine thinks that what she is saying is correct. She wants me to confirm it. Or just make conversation. But when someone uses rising intonation in a question tag - when the voice goes up - they are asking a real question – they want to find out if the statement is really true. For example, you could say:

Neil
There isn't any meat in the soup, is there?
You do serve vegetarian food, don't you?
I can order a plain omelette, can't I?

Catherine
And now it's quiz time. I'm going to say three statements and you have to add the question tags. Number one: It's your birthday tomorrow…

Finn
…isn't it?

Catherine
Good, number two: Kumar won't be late…

Finn
…will he?

Catherine
Question three: You're going to get that chocolate now…?

Finn
…aren't you? Ok Catherine, I get the hint.

Catherine
Well done if you got all those right.

Finn
There's more about this on our website at bbclearningenglish.com. Join us again for more 6 Minute Grammar.

Both
Bye.

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End of Session 2

That's all for this session. We hope you enjoyed it. In the next session you'll read and hear about a job interview that went really badly. What happened? Join us in Session 3 to find out!

Sesión de gramática

  • Question tags work by turning a statement into a question by adding a tag at the end. The tag is a short yes or no question.

    You’re here for the interview today, aren’t you? (Compare with: Are you here for the interview?)

    If the statement is positive, the tag is negative. If the statement is negative, then the tag is positive.

    We are meeting this afternoon, aren’t we?
    The job situation isn’t getting any better, is it?

    The statement and the question tag must match: they have the same pronoun and the verbs must be in the same present, past or future form.

    Barbara hasn’t eaten lunch today, has she?
    Mr. Reese doesn’t own a computer, does he?
    You are living in Prague, aren’t you?
    All the candidates arrived on time, didn’t they?