Study these examples:
A : You haven’t seen Maria today, have you?
B : No, I haven’t.
A : It was a good movie, wasn’t it?
B : Yes, I loved it.
Have you? and wasn’t it? are tag (= mini-questions that we often put on the end of a sentence in spoken English).
I these tags, we use an auxiliary verb (have/was/will, etc.).
We use do/does/did for the present and simple past.
– “Lauren plays the piano, doesn’t she?” “Well, yes, but not very well.”
– “You didn’t lock the door, did you?” “No. I forgot”
Normally we use a negative question tag after a positive sentence:
Positive Sentence + Negative Tag
Maria will be here soon, won't she?
There was a lot of traffic, wasn’t there?
Jim should take his medicine, shouldn’t he?
… and a positive question tag after a negative sentence:
Negative Sentence + Positive Tag
Kate won't be late, will she? They don't like us, do they?
You haven’t paid the gas bill, have you?
Notice the meaning of yes and no is answer to a negative sentence:
You’re not going out today, are you?
– Yes. (= Yes, I am going out)
– No. (= No, I am not going out)
The meaning of a tag depends on how you say it. If your voice goes down, you are not really asking a question; you are inviting the listener to agree with you:
- “It’s a nice day, isn’t it?” “Yes, beautiful.”
- “Eric doesn’t look too good, doesn’t he?” “No, he looks very tired.”
- She’s very funny. She has a wonderful sense of humor, doesn’t she?
But if the voice goes up, it is a real question:
– “You haven’t seen Lisa today, have you?” “No, I haven’t.”
(= Have you seen Lisa today by any chance?)
You can use a negative sentence + positive tag to ask for things or information or to ask somebody to do something.
The voice goes up at the end of the tag in sentences like these:
– “You wouldn’t have a pen, would you?” “Yes, here you are.”
– “You couldn’t lend me some money, could you?” “It depends how much.”
– “You don’t know where Lauren is, do you?” “Sorry, I have no idea.”
After Let’s … the tag is shall we:
– Let’s go for a walk, shall we? (the voice goes up)
After Do/Listen/Give …, etc.(imperative), the tag is usually will you:
– Listen to me, will you? (the voice goes up)
After I’m …, the negative tag is aren’t I? (= am I not?)
– “I’m right, aren’t I?” “Yes, you are.”