A question tag or a tag question is a phrase that is added at the end of a statement to turn into a question.
When a speaker uses a question tag at the end of a statement, he/she is seeking for approval, confirmation or correction.
Approval: I look smart today, don’t I? Yes you do.
Confirmation: These are the new students, aren’t they? Yes they are.
Correction: I paid your money yesterday, didn’t I ? No you didn’t Many learners face a problem of supplying the correct question tags to sentences.
This is because they fail to observe the following rules of question tags:
- A comma must be put to separate the statement with the question tag.
A question mark must be placed at the end of the question tag.
Rufftone has released a new album, hasn’t he?
He is pushing for a decision by tomorrow, isn’t he?
- The auxiliary verb in the statement must be repeated in the question tag
Neson Mandela was in prison for 27 years, wasn’t he?
The people of South Africa have lost a great hero, haven’t they?
- When there is no auxiliary verb in the statement, the appropriate form of the auxiliary verb Do must be used in the question tag
Mark Francis wakes up very early, doesn’t he?
Peter Bryan bought an I-pad phone, didn’t he?
- The subject in the statement must be repeated in the question tag.
If it is a noun in the statement, it changes to the appropriate pronoun.
If it is a pronoun in the statement, it remains a pronoun in the question tag.
Fatou Bensouda is prosecutor in ICC, isn’t she?
She does her work meticulously, doesn’t she?
- When the statement is positive (i.e. It does not have the word not in it), the question tag must be negative (i.e. must use the negative word not and vice versa).
David Rudisha has broken another record, hasn’t he?
Cathrerine Ndereba hasn’t been very active, has she?
Douglas Wakiihuri does not run any more, does he?
Ezekiel Kemboi entertains the audience after winning, doesn’t he?
You will note form the above examples that the auxiliary verb is usually contrated (joined) with the negative indicator not when using question tags.
However, this does not apply when using primary auxiliary verb am and the modal auxiliary verbs will and shall.
Am does not allow contraction with not, will and shall usually change their forms to allow contraction.
Wrong: Am the next speaker, amn’t I?
Correct: I am the nest speaker, am I not?
Wrong: They will be late for church, willn’t they?
Correct: They will be late for church, won’t they?
Wrong: We shall attend the Memorial service, willn’t we?
Correct: We shall attend the memorial service, shan’t we?
- Whereas there is no inversion in the statement, inversion must occur in the question tag i.e. the auxiliary verb comes before the subject
President Jackson has won the case, hasn’t he?
Subject verb, verb subject
He can now relax and attend to his duties, can’t he?
Subject verb, verb subject
- For sentences that are inform of requests and commands, the question tags will commonly take the auxiliary verb will or shall followed by the appropriate pronoun.
Examples: Please help me with your pen, will you?
Let us go for a swim, shall we?
Bring me that chair, will you?
Stop that noise, will you?
Kneel down right away, will you?
Those are the rules that govern question tags and if followed well, the learners will not have any problems with question tags.
Supply the appropriate question tags in the following sentences.
- The marriage caused rupture in her relationship with her mother,.
. 4. The Prime Minister must take a firm stand against extremist in his party,.
- The amendments will strengthen the bill,.
- The new tax is tantamount to stealing form the poor,.
- Please send all your remarks to Prof Kibwana as soon as possible,.
. 9. She raised the gun and pulled the trigger,.
- We need to learn to prioritize,.
- Get out of this room now,.
- We’ve made a reservation for next week,.
- Thy couldn’t conceal the secret any more
- We shall not accept anything less,.
- I am not a conman,
- Jonny wanted to pursue a career in theatre,.
- Sharon’s parents claim that the house is legally theirs,.
- I haven’t told you my name,.
- Came and visit us tomorrow,.
- Time will tell whether he made the right choice,.