Question Tags

This lesson about question tags is part of a complete lesson on question formation in English in our free Upper-Intermediate English Course. The interactive exercises for this topic are here.

You’ve probably seen this type of question before, haven’t you? Read on to find out all about what this type of question is and how to form it.

What are Question Tags?

A picture of a label or tag to illustrate the concept of question tags in English grammar.

A tag is like a label. In the case of question tags in English grammar we “hang” a tag at the end of an affirmation to turn it into a question.

Question tags are a way of checking that something you think is correct.

For example, if I think that someone is Italian I could say:

“You’re Italian, aren’t you?”

Forming Question Tags

These are the steps to work out a question tag.

Copy the modal verb, auxiliary verb or the verb “to be” and the subject.

Invert the order of the verb and the subject.

Change the order from subject + verb to verb + subject.

Invert the polarity of the verb.

If the verb is positive in the main sentence, make it negative in the tag. If it is negative in the main sentence, make it positive in the tag.

For example, if the verb “can” is used in the main sentence, then the negative form “can’t” should be used in the tag.

However, if the verb “can’t” is used in the main part, then it should be used in the positive form “can” in the tag.

Add a question mark (?).


You are coming, aren’t you?

She can swim can’t she?

They will do it, won’t they?

You were listening, weren’t you?

It hadn’t arrived, had it?

She should have asked, shouldn’t she?

Question tags when there is no auxiliary, modal or “to be”.

Sometimes, there isn’t a modal verb, or an auxiliary or even the verb “to be”. In that case you need to use the auxiliary verb “do” conjugated to the correct tense.

Foe example, in the sentence

He speaks Spanish.

There is no modal verb, no auxiliary and no “to be”, so we need to use the auxiliary verb “do”. If you’re not sure of the conjugation, just imagine the sentence in negative and you’ll find the right form (“He doesn’t speak Spanish”).

He speaks Spanish, doesn’t he?

And the same goes for the past simple.

You saw the accident, didn’t you?

Irregular 1st Person

The verb “to be” is irregular for the first person in negative question tags. Although The conjugation for “I” is “am”, in the question tag we use “are”.

I am late, aren’t I?

But only in negative question tags. In positive tags, the conjugation is as expected.

I’m not late, am I?

Question Tags with “There + To Be”

We can form questions in the same way using expressions like “There is / are / was / were” etc…”

There was a problem, wasn’t there?

There will be food, won’t there?

There is someone behind me, isn’t there?

there is nothing to eat, is there?

Question Tags with Imperatives

We can use the same form to make imperative statements or commands sound more like questions. Question tags with imperatives usually use “will” or “would”

Give me a call when John arrives, will you?

Pass me the folder, would you?


Check your comprehension with this interactive exercise.