We generally use tag questions to confirm an information when we have prior knowledge or idea about the information but we are not sure about it. So when we ask a tag question we are trying to be sure about the information we already know. We ask tag questions to people who have more knowledge or information about the fact we are trying to confirm.
When we say you are thirty, aren’t you? We have a previous idea about the person’s age, but we want to be sure.
Even, in some cases we can be sure about the information, but we want to “ask for agreement”
(Prowse, 2008), using the previous
example we can say that the person who is asking knows the age, but he/she
wants to know if the other person is agree.
There are different kinds of tag questions, look at the following examples:
1. You are Roger’s sister, aren’t you?
2. It’s not your birthday, is it?
3. You speak French, don’t you?
4. You didn’t come by bus, did you?
As we can see in the examples, tag questions are conformed by a statement (which can be affirmative or negative) and a question. When the statement is affirmative, the question is negative. When the statement is negative, the question is affirmative.
We must be careful with the kind of verb we are using in the statement, remember that some verbs need auxiliaries for making questions or negations, like in the third example where we needed to add the auxiliary verb “don’t” to make the negative form of speak.
Intonation when speaking is also important, when we are sure about the information and we are asking because we want to know if the other person is agree we are going to give a falling intonation.
When we are completely insecure about the fact we are going to give a rising intonation to the tag question.
Prowse, J. G. (2008). American Inspiration for teens, 2. Mexico: MACMILLAN.