Question tags, that is, short questions we put at the end of the sentence usually in spoken language, can be difficult to Spanish-speaking students since, we must admit, it is much easier in their own language: usually, by finishing a sentence with ¿no?, the problem is solved.
It is true that this is a bit more difficult in English. However, if a couple logical rules are followed, it becomes far less complicated. The first rule to remember is the fact that double negative cannot be applied to English language, therefore if the main part of the sentence is positive the question tag will be negative and vice versa. Examples:
- Mike is a University student, isn’t he?
- She doesn’t need braces, does she?
The second rule applies to the type of verb you need to construct question tags. Question tags require the same verb as in the main sentence. If it is an auxiliary verb (be or have) we will use it in the question tag:
- You have your ID card with you, haven’t you?
- You aren’t afraid to ask, are you?
- With any other verbs, we will use do to form question tags. Examples:
- She studies Chinese at the Confucius Institute in London, doesn’t she?
- Mark does not smoke, does he?
- Modal verbs will also be used in question tags:
- You can submit your assignment on time, can’t you?
- I shouldn’t talk to her until things cam down a little, should I?
Last, but not least, remember that the question tag for sentences that start with I am is “aren’t I”. If the sentence starts with “I’m not”, the question tag will be “am I”, as in the examples:
- I am responsible for my own actions, aren’t I?
- I am not affected by any of that business, am I?
- It is not so difficult after all, is it?
Let’s practise a little:
For more English tips, take a look to the posts below 😉