All of us have used question tags in our communication with others. Question tags are often used to confirm if something is true or not and are used to encourage a reply. The rule for questions tags seems simple enough. You are aware of the basic rule, aren’t you? The previous statement is an example of a question tag.
In general, positive statements are paired with negative question tags and vice versa.
The basic rules aside, things can get tricky. Let’s look at an example of a question tag that some of you get confused by:
He booked the air tickets, _________ he?
Which option is correct? Some children will be tempted to choose option (1). The answer is actually (2) didn’t.
When only a verb in the present tense is given in the statement, we use do/don’t, does/doesn’t in the question tag.
When only a verb in the past tense is given in the statement, we use did/didn’t in the question tag.
In the previous example: He booked the air tickets, ________ he?
Here’s what the statement means: He did book the air tickets.
The question tag after the statement should therefore be: didn’t he
Besides the above example, question tags do get tricky in other instances. With only about a week left to the PSLE paper, I have decided to summarise all that you need to know in order to nail those tricky question tags so that you do not trip up on them. Below is a summary of all you need to know in bite-sized portions to help you in your revision!
QUESTION TAGS- GENERAL RULES
1)When the verb in the main sentence is in the simple present tense, we form the question tag with ‘do / don’t’, ‘does/doesn’t’
She swims (means ‘does swim’) well, doesn’t she?
2) When the verb in the main sentence is in the simple past tense, we use ‘did’.
She swam (means ‘did swim) well, didn’t she?
3) Verbs paired with negative adverbs = verb becomes the negative form
She hardly (negative adverb) swims, does she? (positive tag)
NOTE: The negative meaning of the verb itself does not change the statement to a negative.
E.g. He dislikes (means does dislike so +ve) chocolate, doesn’t he?
QUESTION TAGS- For statements, without the modal verb ‘shall’, that function as suggestions
Sometimes statements are made without the modal verb ‘shall’.
E.g. Let’s watch a movie.
For such statements, we take it as a suggestion and ‘shall’ needs to be used in the question tag NOT ‘shan’t’.
E.g. Let’s watch a movie, shall we?
QUESTION TAGS- RULE OF IMPERATIVES
What is an imperative? An imperative is an instruction or command that uses the verb in the root form.
E.g. Close the door.
For positive imperatives, both the positive and negative question tags (will/won’t ) can be used.
Close the door, will/won’t you?
For negative imperatives, (adding ‘Don’t’ to a positive imperative) only ‘will’ can be used in the question tag.
Don’t close the door, will you?
Like these helpful tips? Download the full version of our Summary of Tricky Grammar Rules by clicking here. Do print it out! You might also want to cut along the dotted lines so that you can stick them to your study board at home. Happy revising!