Talk:Tag question

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Comment: Tag Questions[edit]

A comment on the article about tag questions:

Tag questions are here defined as a declarative followed by a questioning tag, which is in itself an incomplete definition. However, the reason why I react is that the examples given are actually imperatives followed by a questioning tag, which is also possible.

Some examples with declaratives and an interrogative:

John's going out, isn't he? (pos. declarative + neg. tag)

That's not true, is it? (neg. declarative + pos. tag)

He's quite stubborn, is he? (pos. declarative + pos. tag)

Do you sell newspaper do you? (pos. interrogative + pos. tag)

(Above comment by user Please give a username in future.)

The last example, with interrogative + tag, is not to my mind a possible English sentence. The other examples are exactly parallel to the examples in the text of the article. I don't really see the problem here. --Doric Loon 14:16, 22 December 2005 (UTC)

Echo questions[edit]

What are echo questions? Are they the same what question tags?

(This question by user Pawlątko.)

No, as far as I can discover, echo questions are questions which repeat the bulk of the sentence to which they are reacting. eg:
Jack: It's Mary's birthday. I gave her a kitten.
Jill: You gave her a KITTEN??? But you know she hates cats!
--Doric Loon 14:16, 22 December 2005 (UTC)

Doric is essentially right, but did not word it extremely well. Most often, echo questions are questions in which you repeat the exact same word order as the declarative statement and you use a WH-word (who, what, where, etc) for the part of the sentence that you did not hear or understand or wanted clarification or confirmation that you heard what you thought you hear. When I studied this in college, I don't actually remember talking about examples like Doric gave, in which every word is repeated, though it follows the same logic. I assume it's just as sound. Examples: "I went to Antarctica." "You went where?" / "I watched a movie with Jessie." "You watched a movie with who(m)?"
--cullen (talk) 13:50, 22 August 2011 (UTC)

Answering Tag Questions[edit]

There's a lot about the forms of these questions on this page. But what should be addressed is how one answers them: answering tag questions phrased in the affirmative form is obvious, but those phrased in the negative form confront the difficulty in present-day English of the double negative.

In German, "doch" is used to answer "yes, it isn't"; "si" in French as well ("non" is used to answer the negation "no; rather, it is") and Japanese has similar expectation of how such questions are answered.

In Archaic English, there used to be a means of answering as in those other languages listed above, and I think it was "nay". Personally, I'm interested in the various ways things can be expressed -- but there are a lot of people out there who are trying to learn English and get hung up on this point. (I work around it). --Sobolewski 22:03, 15 March 2006 (UTC)

The only way I have ever heard is to answer it in the same manner as a positive, ignoring the negative. Thus, given "This is good bread, isn't it?" answering yes means "yes it is good bread" and no means "no it isn't". This is the same rule that is used for negative questions in general in english. The double negative doesn't cross into the answer is the best way I can think to say it. —The preceding unsigned comment was added by (talk) 21:55, 25 February 2007 (UTC).

"Emphasis" examples[edit]

  • I don't like peas, do you?
  • I like peas, don't you?

Are these really tag questions and not separate questions (that should be indicated as such using periods or maybe semi-colons)?

  • I don't like peas. Do you?
  • I like peas. Don't you?

--RJCraig 07:49, 13 February 2007 (UTC)

If they are joined to the sentence as in the text, they are tag questions. If they are separated the way you write them, they are not. The difference in writing is real, because it reflects two different ways of saying them, and the different intonation patterns have different levels of meaning, or at least of stress. If they are just tagged on the end of the sentence as afterthoughts, they are modifiers of the original sentence. In this case, like many other tag questions in the article, they simply invite - but in fact probably presuppose - agreement, they don't really solicit information. --Doric Loon 17:55, 13 February 2007 (UTC)
Even with a comma, I don't consider them tag questions.  Randall Bart   Talk  00:27, 19 December 2007 (UTC)

Well, they ARE questions, and they ARE tagged onto the end of the sentence. You can quibble about terminology, but even if for you this is not a true tag question, it is certainly a related phenomenon, and since there is no other recognised terminology, what can possibly speak against discussing it here as a variation of the tag question phenomenon? --Doric Loon (talk) 09:55, 19 December 2007 (UTC)
Tag questions and question tags are a specific thing, clear in the literature. These are not tag questions, they are plain, common-or-garden elided questions. Punctuation doesn't alter that fact. Prof Wrong (talk) 21:26, 24 July 2011 (UTC)
Further, the Longman Student Grammar of English states "question tags are not independent clauses". These contrast questions are grammatically independent clauses, even if the elision of repeated information means that they rely on the previous clause for context.
Consider that I have a car - do you? can be converted to I have a car - do you have a car?, giving only a minor change in emphasis. But this doesn't work with tag questions.
You have a car, don't you? is fundamentally different from saying You have a car - don't you have a car? The second would only be possible if in the pause indicated by the hyphen something occurred to indicate to the speaker that the claim in the first clause was false.
Therefore it is clear that the tag question is not formed by elision. Also, if we accept contrast questions as a form of question tags, then we'd have to start discussing them for all languages, which would be rather bizarre given the fact that most languages treat them very differently from question tags.
Prof Wrong (talk) 08:31, 25 July 2011 (UTC)

Am I not?[edit]

Hi, the article only mentions "aren't I", not "am I not". Could someone fix this, please? --Kjoonlee 16:56, 12 July 2007 (UTC)

Does anybody actually say "am I not"? --Doric Loon 20:31, 12 July 2007 (UTC)
My old English professor. --Kjoonlee 11:35, 14 July 2007 (UTC)

I say "Am I not," "Are we not," etc. quite often. "Am I not on the list?" "Am I not going with you?" "Am I not your best friend?" "Are we not meeting at the coffee shop?" "Is he (just) not interested, or what? I don't think I *ever* say "Aren't I?" What an nasally and grammatically-weird question (I + are = WTF??).Eztidun (talk) 02:04, 18 September 2008 (UTC)

Yes, but those aren't tag questions. Sure, I would say "am I not" at the beginning of a full sentence question, usually if "I" is stressed. But would you ever say: "I'm next, am I not?" As for "aren't I", it depends where you come from - we Scots would never say it. --Doric Loon (talk) 07:04, 18 September 2008 (UTC)
Forgive the intrusion into your conversation, but I must say that I use "am I not" as a tag question quite frequently, especially as an emphatic. As in: "Are you going out?"; "I'm wearing my coat, am I not?" - Mark Jones, London —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 19:39, 10 February 2009 (UTC)
Agree. I find myself only using am I not. To me aren't I just sounds wrong. I'm a teacher so I have always taught students both forms but I accept that most other people use aren't I. Is there a reason for this? This article doesn't seem to go into this strange feature of question tags. I'm right, am I not?--ЗAНИA talk WB talk] 01:52, 11 November 2011 (UTC)

Term for the "tag"[edit]

Is there another term for the "tag" or is that actually the term that is used to refer to the words that follow the comma? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 01:50, 16 November 2007 (UTC)

Yes, we just call it "the tag". --Doric Loon (talk) 11:56, 15 May 2009 (UTC)


This is a tag question, isn't it?

Yet "is" isn't functioning as an auxiliary in this instance, which is why I changed the definition.

"Do" as the intrusive auxiliary -- fine.

But is "to be" functioning as an auxiliary in "I'm doing it, amn't I" or the like? That's an open question, and if we think that the continuous might be a Celtic substrate, we open up a whole headache about the nature of participles. (Which is why I wanted to avoid the point, and simply associate the continuous with the copula....)

Prof Wrong (talk) 23:03, 4 December 2008 (UTC)

Yes, but mostly the tag question uses an auxiliary: either a form of do for a simple tense or of have for a perfect tense or of be for a progressive verb form. You are right that your example with a present simple of be as the main verb is a rare exception. You could also argue that examples with modals (mustn't we?) are not auxiliaries, but that depends on the definition of auxiliary and is therefore a moot point. I suspect what you have identified is a unique exception. The grammar books refer to the auxiliaries, so I would want to keep that, but I will add a sentence at the bottom of the section noting your observation. --Doric Loon (talk) 22:22, 5 December 2008 (UTC)
OK done that, and I hope you agree with the solution. Thanks for pointing that out - it is yet another complication in the already very complex English system. --Doric Loon (talk) 22:33, 5 December 2008 (UTC)
That looks fine. I'd have prefered a different title, but I can live with it as it is -- the message is clear enough now. Prof Wrong (talk) 11:27, 6 December 2008 (UTC)

Welsh tag questions[edit]

I'm not sure the description of these is quite right. Is 'ond'/'onid' "a special particle... used to mark tag questions"? This seems misleading in at least two ways. First, it is not restricted to tag questions. It occurs as a conjunction, at least, both alone and combined with other elements. Second, it doesn't occur in tag questions following negative statements. The reason it occurs in the three cases here are that the sentences are all positive and 'onid' is negating the tag question. If the sentences were negative, you wouldn't use it.

  • Dydy hi ddim yn bwrw glaw heddiw, ydy hi? - It isn't raining today, is it?

Also note that things work differently in the past tense. In the example,

  • Canodd y bobl, on' do? - The people sang, didn't they?

do isn't an inflected form of canu (to sing). You'd use the same tag question with other verbs and persons in the same tense:

  • Aethon ni i'r sinema, ond do? - We went to the cinema, didn't we?
  • Dysgodd e'n dda, ond do? - He learnt well, didn't he?

--Dienw (talk) 15:53, 4 May 2009 (UTC)

Reinventing the wheel...?[edit]

I reckon this article is going round the houses a bit with all its talk of auxiliaries and exceptions. The rule is far more straightforward than the article makes out:

'Take the first verb, optional negative particle and pronoun from the simple question form'.

By that rule, "to be" is not an exception -- the only exception is then the (optional) use of "hadn't I" for non-auxiliary "have".

Am I not, are we not etc are still covered by it as they can occur at the start of an interrogative (but still worth noting).

English is hard enough without teaching the same thing twice and thereby inventing exceptions where there are none. Prof Wrong (talk) 22:37, 23 March 2010 (UTC)

Adverbial tag questions[edit]

Somebody has removed from this article most of the examples of adverbs being used as tag questoins (OK?, eh?, surely? right? yeh?) and put the few that are left into a separate section on "variants" implying they are regional or non-standard or not the real thing. They are absolutely part of standard English, and are tag questions in the fullest sense. Anyone who looks at this across the langages and sees that other languages have tag questions like gel? or verdad? can plainly see this. But somebody here has such anglo-centric thinking that only the unique Celtic/English way of forming them is being recognized. This is a backward step. --Doric Loon (talk) 17:37, 12 August 2010 (UTC)

Globalization tag[edit]

A globalization tag has been added to this article, suggesting it is too focussed on English. I think that is probably wrong. As this is the English-language Wikipedia, you would expect the head to loead with English-language examples of linguistic phenomena, because that is the easiest way to show the reader what we are talking about. Further down we would normally deal with as wide a range of languages as possible. The trouble here is that only English and the Celtic languages seem to have a system complicated enough to discuss in detail. We do mention examples from a good many other languages in the first sub-section, but there is nothing more to say about them than that they have one-phrase question tags. French is "n'est-ce pas", that's all, what would we want to discuss? So I think the balance is right. If anyone disagrees, could you please tell us what languages you think need fuller discussion? If not, I will remove the globalization tag. --Doric Loon (talk) 22:04, 27 April 2011 (UTC)

Article order/hierarchy... split...?[edit]

I wasn't too comfortable with the layout of the section forms, as it had become an unstructured list. Instead I've converted it to be a discussion of common patterns. I've tried to keep as many of the different languages in as possible, but in many places it would have seemed repetitive, and in others I wasn't clear on the exact meaning of certain words. If anyone's clearer on them, feel free to add them back in in the appropriate place.

The question that arose in my mind was the matter of English and Celtic. Part of me wanted to incorporate them into the form section, as that's where other tags were discussed. But then they talk about both form and usage.

I'm now starting to think that the English tag question really deserves its own article, with only a brief overview here. I reckon the Celtic languages deserve a slightly broader discussion here than English (as it's a pattern that occurs across languages), but with some of the specifics perhaps being devolved down to language-specific articles, so we'd still end up with less here than we have here.

Any thoughts...? Prof Wrong (talk) 09:18, 25 July 2011 (UTC)

Sorry, I should have answered this much sooner. Well, the question I would ask is whether you are wanting to write a lot more. The article is not too long, and I suspect that splitting it is not justified with the material we have. I agree up to a point about the balance problem, but I think it is not that big an issue unless we have more to say. But, I think it is important to have a full discussion of the English phenomenon, and if you want to resructure the whole article in a way that can't accommodate that, then a separate English article would certainly be a possibility. --Doric Loon (talk) 21:18, 31 July 2011 (UTC)

Japanese "ne"?[edit]

Would folks here consider the Japanese word (I suppose it might be a particle) "ne" an indicator of a tag question? (Or would you limit that label to longer and more explicit forms such as "[na no] de wa nai ka?", for example?) -- jalp ( (talk) 15:32, 31 July 2011 (UTC))

I was wondering that myself, but wasn't able to find a source for that. That's how the word is borrowed into English, ne? Thomblake (talk) 17:15, 13 July 2012 (UTC)

I don't think "ne" would be considered a tag, as it functions pretty much identically to any other verb-/sentence-level grammatical marker. A tag is added on after the clause under question, but "ne" is technically part of it.... Prof Wrong (talk) 12:30, 19 December 2012 (UTC)

Tags without inversion[edit]

Is there a special name for these tags without inversion, as in I'm Henry VIII, I am? Ivo von Rosenqvist (talk) 00:44, 19 December 2012 (UTC)

That's not a "tag", as far as I'm aware. What you're doing is restating the sentence in an emphatic form. This is clearer with other verbs -- eg I like it, I do. Consider that "yes I do" is far more emphatic that "yes".

Of course, it seems to be getting less common.... Prof Wrong (talk) 12:38, 19 December 2012 (UTC)

How to form tag question in English in case of presence of the word "never"?[edit]

E. g.: He never drinks coffee.

How to ask correctly about this: He never drinks coffee, does he? or He never drinks coffee, doesn't he? — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 21:21, 26 June 2013 (UTC)

Disputed, welsh false tag[edit]

I'm pretty sure that the welsh form is in fact a tag question, but don't feel confident enough to delete the info and am far too lazy to find a source. Judge me all you want but not even bothering to tag it would be worse. The citation needed tag's been there for a whiiiile and it's probably because the statement is bullshit, so unsourcable.

False tag in Welsh English[edit]

This section is unsourced, and seems dubious. It sounds like the kind of story non-linguists sometimes come up with. I would be inclined to delete it unless someone can find a source. --Doric Loon (talk) 17:50, 23 December 2015 (UTC)

OK, and I've just seen that back in October an IP-user said the same thing (see section above). In that case, three months on, as there is still no source, it's time to delete the section. --Doric Loon (talk) 17:53, 23 December 2015 (UTC)

Why can't this sentence take a tag question?[edit]

"We haven't spoken in far too long, ____?" Neither "have we" nor "haven't we" sounds acceptable. Equinox 20:38, 16 August 2016 (UTC)

  • "We haven't spoken in far too long, have we?" - sounds just fine to me. But it's a question of context - normally you would say this particular sentence in a context where the kind of emphasis created by a tag question is not required. --Doric Loon (talk) 17:43, 18 August 2016 (UTC)
    Hmm... I suppose it depends on stress patterns. "We haven't met before, have we?" seems like quite a different sort of "have we". Equinox 23:08, 20 August 2016 (UTC)