Wednesday, November 30, 2011

You probably think this post is about tags, DON'T YOU?

Tag questions are as common in English as fleas are on dogs. They are used everyday in all kinds of situations.

To confirm information.

To let others know we know.

Yes, even to be a little sarcastic.

So, you probably know this post is about tag questions, don't you?

But just in case, we'll do a little review.

In short, a tag question is a statement with a short question at the end to confirm the first part. Something like this:
  • You're my new neighbor, aren't you?
  • Tom broke the printer, didn't he?
  • We can make it on time, can't we?

The structure is simple:
  • If the statement is positive, the short question is negative.
  • If the statement is negative, the short question is positive.

Notice the verbs?

  • Yes, if the auxiliary verb (can, be, have, do) is positive on one side, it's negative on the other
  • If there is no auxiliary (just a regular action verb: run, eat, fly, listen), use the auxiliary do with opposite logic on the other side.
  • Verbs on both sides are in the same tense.

Why tags?
  • Tags are used mostly in conversation when the person speaking is almost sure he or she is right, but wants confirmation from someone else.
  • Tags are also use to confirm what you already know, but wish to express to others.
  • Yet tags can additionally be used sarcastically, when the speaker is sure about something, but uses a special tone or emphasizes a certain word to "make believe" that there is still some doubt. The listener will quickly identify the sarcasm. The speaker might also make the statement opposite of what he or she actually believes.

Example: (Speaker believes the test was easy)
  • Wow, that was really a hard test, wasn't it?
This use will be very frequent in comedies.


Rising intonation >> if it's really a question and there is some doubt
Falling intonation >> if you're just confirming
Special intonation >> if you're being sarcastic

Famous example:

"If we knew what it was we were doing, it would not be called research, would it?"
(Albert Einstein)

That was pretty easy, wasn't it?

So easy in fact, you should have no probably following the words to this classic song by Carly Simon.

"You're so vain" (you probably think this song is about you, don't you?)
Enjoy, English Users!

(TRIVIA: Listen to it a few times if you can. See if you can figure out who sings back up vocals. Answer in our next post.)

No comments:

Post a Comment