Grammar Challenge
 

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- Practice Tasks 1 and 2

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- Practice Task 3

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- Use the grammar
Use the grammar

How do you feel about using question tags? Are they useful? Important? Easy? Difficult?

Have you ever had any problems with the form or pronunciation of question tags?

Can you give any advice on how to use question tags successfully?

We'll publish our favourite five entries.

 
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Xabik, Russia
Well, the biggest problem for me is to pick the correct tag question quickly. I'm always puzzled for a few seconds at the end of the sentence desperately trying to find what tense/verb/pronoun to use. :)



Catherine says:
Hi Xabik! You're not alone: many people find that thinking about grammar while they are talking means that they lose a bit of fluency. On the other hand, if they try to keep speaking fluently, they may lose a bit of accuracy.

One thing you can do to help improve both fluency and accuracy is controlled practice: do the grammatical exercises from Grammar Challenge: Question Tags - Form, and then practice reading them out loud. Of course it is much more difficult to think of the correct question tag when you are speaking naturally, but by practicing grammar in a controlled way, your accuracy in everyday speaking will slowly improve.

Practice makes perfect! Thanks for commenting, Xabik!


Thukitha, UK
It is better to introduce tag questions in conversation rather than in single sentences. When we use tag in conversation it will be more effective and it draws the full attention of the speaker as well as the listener.



Catherine says:
Thanks for your comments, Thukitha! You're absolutely right when you say that question tags are effective conversation tools. Asking and answering questions helps the speaker and listener to build a relationship, even if both of them already know the answer.

But when you are speaking, it's perfectly acceptable to use a question tag in a short sentence, even if it isn't part of a long conversation. For example, William walked past my desk this morning, pointed to a pen and simply said 'That's my pen, isn't it?' It wasn't his pen, so I simply replied 'No, William, it isn't.' Short and simple!

Keep logging on to Grammar Challenge, Thukitha!
Catherine


Javier, Spain
I realised that many people use the expression init? or right? instead of questions tags. My question is: Is this a kind of wildcard?



Catherine says:
Thanks for your question, Javier! Some British people, especially people from the London area, pronounce 'isn't it?' as 'innit?' So they might say something like


'It's expensive, 'innit?''

So 'innit' means 'isn't it?' But 'innit?'' can also be used to replace all kinds of question tags: doesn't it, hasn't she, won't we etc.

Examples:

Sorry we're late. We missed the train, innit? (instead of 'didn't we?)
You have to buy a ticket before you go, innit? (instead of 'don't you?)

This use of 'innit?' is very informal, and it is extremely unusual to see it written down.

'Innit?' is used mostly in British English. The American equivalent is 'right?'. It has the same function as a question tag, but can be used at the end of almost any sentence, instead of a question tag. It's fairly informal and is used mostly in speaking.

Examples:

This bus goes to the city centre, right? (instead of 'doesn't it?)
I can get a student discount, right? (instead of 'can't I?)

Thanks again for your question, Javier!
Catherine


Kirsti, France
Tag questions are used when people speak with each others, aren't they? The people I met in my 6 month job in the UK were mostly no native speakers, or patients that couldn't speak. So the big problem was the lack of people with whom I could train tag questions or English in any other form for that sake.

Reading grammar books I was surprised to learn that you don't say 'amn't I?' - though I've read they do say so in some dialects - but 'aren't I?' - By the way, what do you say if you say all the words in full? Am I not? Surely it's never said fully, is it?



Catherine says:
Interesting comments, Kirsti! You're correct to point out that English speakers don't usually say 'amn't I?' Ususally they say 'aren't I' (but in some parts of Scotland, for example, 'amn't I?' is also used).

You are also correct to say that the full form of 'aren't I?' (or 'amn't I?') is 'am I not?' for 'wouldn't I? ' it is 'would I not?' and for 'don't they' - 'do they not?' etc. English speakers DO use these longer forms of negative question tags, either for emphasis or when they want to be more formal. For example, William walked past my desk this afternoon, pointed to a book and said to me 'That's my book, is it not?' It wasn't his book, so I simply replied 'No, William, it is not.' Short and simple!

Thanks again, Kirsti!
Catherine


Angelo, Italy
Yes, I DID have problems with question tags, even if I've learnt a lot today.

I would suggest paying attention in their use as they could be sometimes misunderstood creating embarrassment, usually the "real question intonation" is less dangerous. Let's use the other form with People that already know us and know our linguistic weaknesses! ;-)



Catherine says:
Thanks, Angelo! A lot of people find the 'real question' intonation easier. I like your advice about practicing things which you find difficult with friends or people who already know you. Doing this can help you build your confidence and skill so that in time you will be able to use the 'difficult' language with everybody.

Thanks again for your comments, Angelo!
Catherine



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