Sunday, March 15, 2020

The Use of Question Tags in English

The Use of Question Tags in English A tag question is a  question added to a declarative sentence, usually at the end, to engage the listener, verify that something has been understood, or confirm that an action has occurred. Also known as a question tag. Common tags include: wont you? wasnt it? dont you? havent you? okay? and right? Examples and Observations If we knew what it was we were doing, it would not be called research, would it?(attributed to Albert Einstein)Theres nothing more exhilarating than pointing out the shortcomings of others, is there?(Randal Graves in Clerks, 1994)I like New York in June, how about you? I like a Gershwin tune, how about you? (Burton Lane and Ralph Freed, How About You, 1941)A toothbrush is a non-lethal object, isnt it? (Morgan Freeman as Red in The Shawshank Redemption, 1994)This time we almost made the pieces fit, didnt we? This time we almost made some sense of it, didnt we? (Jim Webb, Didnt We? 1968)Now eventually you might have dinosaurs on your dinosaur tour, right? (Jeff Goldblum as Dr. Malcolm in Jurassic Park, 1993)But we mustnt think it has all been wasted, must we? We must remember the good times, mustnt we? (Eva Figes, Nellys Version. Secker Warburg, 1977)To actually see inside your ear canalit would be fascinating, wouldnt it? (Letter from Sonus, a hearing-aid company, quoted in The New Y orker, Mar. 24, 2003) I warned you, but did you listen to me? Oh, no, you knew, didnt you? Oh, its just a harmless little bunny, isnt it? (Tim in Monty Python and the Holy Grail) Clause Types With Tag Questions Question tags are not independent clauses, but they do require a response, and are highly interactive. Structurally, interrogatives are abbreviated yes/no interrogatives consisting of an operator (either positive or negative) and a pronoun, which repeats the subject or substitutes for it. Question tags are attached to one of the following clause types: Of these, the declarative is by far the most common. (Angela Downing, English Grammar: A University Course. Taylor Francis, 2006)A declarative clause: It was quiet in there, wasnt it?An exclamative clause: How quiet it was in there, wasnt it?An imperative clause: Be quiet for a moment, will you? The Danger of Tag Questions There were plenty of good seats, as it happened, for the train was not crowded, and Richard was able to select an empty compartment. He was soon joined, however, by a stout, good-natured countryman who selected the seat opposite Richard, opened his newspaper, and became immediately social. Ave ye read about second murder? he exclaimed. Richard frowned, and replied rather shortly. Yes. Gruesome, isnt it? He wished he had not added the isnt it? for this invited a continuation of the conversation, and Richard was not feeling social himself. (J. Jefferson Farjeon, The Z Murders. Collins, 1932) Commas With Tag Questions Place a comma between a statement and the brief question that follows it when the subject of the statement and the subject of the question is the same entity (example 1). When they have different subjects, the statement and the question must be punctuated as separate grammatical elements (example 2).Examples(David K Woodroof, Woodroofs Quotations, Commas and Other Things English. iUniverse, 2005)George was not there, was he?I will never stay in that hotel again. Will you? Also Known As: tag declarative, question tag (chiefly British), interrogative tag

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