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Philippine Normal University
National Center for Teacher Education
Taft Avenue, Manila
College of Languages, Linguistics, and Literature
DEPARTMENT OF ENGLISH
TESOL102 (Pedagogical Grammar of Contemporary English)
2nd
Semester / S.Y. 2010-2012
Ms. Thei Manicio
TAG QUESTIONS
A tag question is a short question form appended to a statement. It is used to confirm
things or when one is in doubt. They are placed at the end of the statements to turn them into
questions.
The tag question contrasts with the statement. When the statement is affirmative, the tag
question is negative, and vice versa.
i.e. Your sister is a teacher, isn't she?
Your sister isn't a teacher, is she?
In some languages the tag-formation convention consists merely of adding no or yes with
a rising intonation no or yes.
i.e. Napunta ka na doon, di' ba?
(You went there, didn't you?)
The Syntax and Morphology of Tag Questions in English
In English, tag questions are normally clause final. When a sentence is written, a comma
separates the main clause from the tag. If a tag question is sentence medial, commas are set off
the tag, and the terminal punctuation is a question mark:
e.g. It's not right, isn't it, to badmouth another person.
Tag questions are sysntactically like abbreviated unmarked yes/no questions in that they
require subject-operator inversion.
e.g. He can't be serious, can't he?
She's the one you're talking about, isn't she?
When there's is no auxilary verb or be verb in the main clause, then the helping verb do
must be introduced as an operator to carry the tense.
e.g. She prepares good dishes, does she?
However, the main clause can be negative by having a negative preadverbial of frequency,
such as never:
e.g. You have never met him, have you?
Negative tags have to two forms. The most common is the contracted form. It is also
syntactically possible, although stylistically formal , to have a full, uncontracted negative; in case,
however, the negative must be separated from the verb:
e.g. You have missed a lot of sessions, haven't you?
You have missed a lot of sessions, have you not?
Second, if the subject of the main clause is not a pronoun, then it must be pronomimalised
in the tag.
e.g. Beth is leaving, isn't she?
The only word that can be used as the subject in the tag question that is not a personal
pronoun is the nonreferential there.
e.g. There are a lot of books in the library, aren't there?
The Intonation of Tag Questions
Two different intonational pattern are used with tag questions:
1. Rising-falling : You want to come with us, do you?
2. Rissing : You want to come with us, do you?
Idiosyncratic Tag Questions
Some tags are idiosyncratic:
Let's go, shall we?
We ought to go, shouldn't we?
I am going, aren't I?
Open the door, won't you?
Also numerous unsystematic lexical-type tags are used informally:
You aren't going, right?
You aren't going, huh?
You are going, no?
You are going, OK?
You are going, eh?
Responding to Tag Questions
Remember that tag questions are rarely responsed to with short answers. In the study
conducted of Brown (1981), in 80 tag questions, it was found that only there were only 3
instances wherein the speaker answer in th traditional short answer, and only 1 of these gave a
yes or no answer. 30% of tags received no reply at all. Some received affirmative answers such as
that's right, or some reply in which additional information were offered.
The Meaning of Tag Questions
Tag questons have different meanings depending on the way were asked.
Polarity Intonation Assumption Expectation
Main Clause Tag Main Clause Tag
affirm. neg. rising
He's smart, isn't he? positive neutral
neg affirm rising
He isn't smart, is he? negative neutral
affirm neg. rising-falling
He is smart, isn't he? positive positive
neg. affirm rising-falling
He isn't smart, is he? negative negative
Huang (1980) stated that the intonation used in asking tag questions indicate how strong
the speaker's presumption is.
The Use of Tag Questions
Tag questions are generally not used to seek information, regardless of their intonation.
The intonation only changes the degree of presumption, not the actual function.
The five major functions of
tag questions:
1. Indicating inferences
2. Seeking agreement
3. Inviting confirmation
4. Expressing doubt
5. Expressing opinion
The six minor functions:
1. Keeping the conversation going
2. Expressing interested
3. Expressing humor or sarcasm
4. Beginning a conversation
5. Making a polite request
6. Expressing surprise
EXERCISE
Put a tag question at the end of these sentences.
1. Tom won't be late, __________? No, he's never late.
2. You're tired, _________? Yes, a little.
3. Tracy has lived here a long time, _________?Yes, 20 years.
4. You weren't listening _________? Yes, I was.
5. Sue doesn't know Ann, _________ No, they've never met.
6. Jack's on vacation, _________? Yes, he's in Japan.
7. Listen, _________? Ok, I'm listening.
8. I shouldn't have lost my temper __________?No, but that's alright.
9. He's never met her before _________? No, that was the first time.
10. There are a lot of people here, _________? Yes, there are more than I expected.
TESOL 102 - Tag Questions in English (Presentation)
TESOL 102 - Tag Questions in English (Presentation)

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TESOL 102 - Tag Questions in English (Presentation)

  • 1. Philippine Normal University National Center for Teacher Education Taft Avenue, Manila College of Languages, Linguistics, and Literature DEPARTMENT OF ENGLISH TESOL102 (Pedagogical Grammar of Contemporary English) 2nd Semester / S.Y. 2010-2012 Ms. Thei Manicio TAG QUESTIONS A tag question is a short question form appended to a statement. It is used to confirm things or when one is in doubt. They are placed at the end of the statements to turn them into questions. The tag question contrasts with the statement. When the statement is affirmative, the tag question is negative, and vice versa. i.e. Your sister is a teacher, isn't she? Your sister isn't a teacher, is she? In some languages the tag-formation convention consists merely of adding no or yes with a rising intonation no or yes. i.e. Napunta ka na doon, di' ba? (You went there, didn't you?) The Syntax and Morphology of Tag Questions in English In English, tag questions are normally clause final. When a sentence is written, a comma separates the main clause from the tag. If a tag question is sentence medial, commas are set off the tag, and the terminal punctuation is a question mark: e.g. It's not right, isn't it, to badmouth another person. Tag questions are sysntactically like abbreviated unmarked yes/no questions in that they require subject-operator inversion. e.g. He can't be serious, can't he? She's the one you're talking about, isn't she?
  • 2. When there's is no auxilary verb or be verb in the main clause, then the helping verb do must be introduced as an operator to carry the tense. e.g. She prepares good dishes, does she? However, the main clause can be negative by having a negative preadverbial of frequency, such as never: e.g. You have never met him, have you? Negative tags have to two forms. The most common is the contracted form. It is also syntactically possible, although stylistically formal , to have a full, uncontracted negative; in case, however, the negative must be separated from the verb: e.g. You have missed a lot of sessions, haven't you? You have missed a lot of sessions, have you not? Second, if the subject of the main clause is not a pronoun, then it must be pronomimalised in the tag. e.g. Beth is leaving, isn't she? The only word that can be used as the subject in the tag question that is not a personal pronoun is the nonreferential there. e.g. There are a lot of books in the library, aren't there? The Intonation of Tag Questions Two different intonational pattern are used with tag questions: 1. Rising-falling : You want to come with us, do you? 2. Rissing : You want to come with us, do you?
  • 3. Idiosyncratic Tag Questions Some tags are idiosyncratic: Let's go, shall we? We ought to go, shouldn't we? I am going, aren't I? Open the door, won't you? Also numerous unsystematic lexical-type tags are used informally: You aren't going, right? You aren't going, huh? You are going, no? You are going, OK? You are going, eh? Responding to Tag Questions Remember that tag questions are rarely responsed to with short answers. In the study conducted of Brown (1981), in 80 tag questions, it was found that only there were only 3 instances wherein the speaker answer in th traditional short answer, and only 1 of these gave a yes or no answer. 30% of tags received no reply at all. Some received affirmative answers such as that's right, or some reply in which additional information were offered. The Meaning of Tag Questions Tag questons have different meanings depending on the way were asked. Polarity Intonation Assumption Expectation Main Clause Tag Main Clause Tag affirm. neg. rising He's smart, isn't he? positive neutral neg affirm rising He isn't smart, is he? negative neutral affirm neg. rising-falling He is smart, isn't he? positive positive neg. affirm rising-falling He isn't smart, is he? negative negative
  • 4. Huang (1980) stated that the intonation used in asking tag questions indicate how strong the speaker's presumption is. The Use of Tag Questions Tag questions are generally not used to seek information, regardless of their intonation. The intonation only changes the degree of presumption, not the actual function. The five major functions of tag questions: 1. Indicating inferences 2. Seeking agreement 3. Inviting confirmation 4. Expressing doubt 5. Expressing opinion The six minor functions: 1. Keeping the conversation going 2. Expressing interested 3. Expressing humor or sarcasm 4. Beginning a conversation 5. Making a polite request 6. Expressing surprise EXERCISE Put a tag question at the end of these sentences. 1. Tom won't be late, __________? No, he's never late. 2. You're tired, _________? Yes, a little. 3. Tracy has lived here a long time, _________?Yes, 20 years. 4. You weren't listening _________? Yes, I was. 5. Sue doesn't know Ann, _________ No, they've never met. 6. Jack's on vacation, _________? Yes, he's in Japan. 7. Listen, _________? Ok, I'm listening. 8. I shouldn't have lost my temper __________?No, but that's alright. 9. He's never met her before _________? No, that was the first time. 10. There are a lot of people here, _________? Yes, there are more than I expected.