Question tags are generally used to reassure or confirm the things that we have said.
eg: Now, we are studying question tags, aren’t we ?
Here, we can see the statement is reassured or confirmed with a tag of question, aren’t we ?
That is, the speaker himself knows the fact we are doing so, but he tries to confirm or reassure the fact by adding a question tag.
Asking these types of questions is generally one of human instincts.
So we can’t question this instinct, but in grammar we have to understand it and study how to make question tags.
As we have seen in the earlier lessons, this question tags also have a general pattern, as shown below,
Auxiliaries + positive/negative meaning + pronoun of the subject + ?
eg: had they?, aren’t we?, do they? isn’t? etc…
Adding positive or negative meaning to the question tag is depended on the sentence, as directed below;
If the sentence is positive, the question tag should be negative.
To make a question tag negative, the weak form of the ‘not’, n’t is to be added with the auxiliary verb in the question tag.
eg: Robert knows how to use the device, doesn’t he?
Here, the sentence is in positive meaning. So the question tag is made negative by adding ‘n’t’ with the auxiliary verb.
To get the auxiliary verb, the finite verb ‘knows’ is splitted as ‘does’ and ‘know’ ( does + know = knows). Then in the beginning of the question tag, the auxiliary verb ‘does’ is written. As the sentence is positive, the weak form of not ‘n’t’ is added with the auxiliary verb ‘does’ to make the question tag negative. After that, the pronoun of the subject ‘Robert’, he is written at the end of the tag along with a question mark.
If the sentence is negative, the question tag should be positive.
That is, the weak form of the not ‘n’t’ is to be avoided from the question tag.
eg: Martin didn’t know the answer, did he? .
Here, the sentence is in negative meaning. So the question tag is made positive by avoiding the n”t from the tag.
We get the auxiliary verb did here directly, as the finite verb is already splitted by the weak form of not n’t. As the sentence is negative, the n’t is avoided to make the question tag positive meaning and at the end, the pronoun of the subject ‘Martin’, ‘he’ is written along with the question mark.
So here, we can understand that, the positive and negative meaning of the sentences is what that matters.
We know that a sentence without ‘no’ or ‘not’ can easily be identified as positive meaning.
But to identify a negative meaning sentence, we have to understand all the negative meaning words besides ‘no’ or ‘not’.
So all the negative meaning words that may come into sentences are given below
‘no’, ‘not’, ‘never’, ‘nothing, ‘nobody’, ‘ nowhere’, ‘none’, ‘neither’, ‘nowhere’,
‘little’, ‘few’, ‘scarcely’, ‘hardly’, ‘rarely’, ‘seldom’ etc,
Now let’s look at the following sentence,
Mathew seldom forgets to bring his text books in school, does he ?
Here, by the word ‘seldom’, we can identify that the sentence is in negative meaning. So here, we have made the positive meaning question tag ‘does he?‘ to the sentence by avoiding ‘n’t’, as explained below,
As per the pattern, the auxiliary verb ‘does’ comes first by splitting the finite verb forgets as ‘does’ and ‘forget’ ( does + forget = forgets), then positive meaning (that is no n’t) and finally the pronoun of the subject Mathew, that is he, ending with a question mark. continue reading