Students Need to Learn About Tag Questions, Don’t They?

She’s at the mall, isn’t she?

Let’s suppose you’re at the mall where everyone is talking and shopping. There’s a lot of noise  and your new friend, Miranda, is trying to tell you about her family. You enjoy talking to her and you want to be sure that you understand what she is saying because you hope to meet her family in the weeks ahead. This article will suggest ways of helping ESL students to understand and use tag questions to confirm their understanding of what is being said.

What are tag questions?

They are a question at the end of a sentence. We use them to make sure that we understand what has just been said. Let’s imagine that you are talking to Miranda. She is so friendly and nice that you want to get to know her better.

Miranda says, “My sister’s name is Charlotte and my mother’s name is Dorothy.

You want to check that you understand her correctly.

You say, “Your sister’s name is Charlotte, isn’t it?

Miranda answers, “Yes, it is.”

You might say, “You don’t have a brother, do you?

Miranda might say, “Yes, I do.” or “No, I don’t”.

You say, “They aren’t here, are they?

Miranda answers, “Yes, they are.” or “No, they aren’t”.

Show the students that the verb used in the tag question and in the answer is the same as the one in the original question but in a different conjugation.

“Your sister’s name is Charlotte, isn’t it?

“Yes, it is.”


Activity Instructions

Point out that if the verb in the statement is negative – then the tag question is positive.

“You don’t have a brother, do you?

The answer, positive or negative, makes the meaning clear.

“Yes, I do.” or “No, I don’t”.

This simple outline explains the basic setup for tag questions. It may help students to understand how to use them as they progress into their use with other verbs. It has been my experience that students find them very confusing at first. Providing opportunities for a lot of practice seemed to solve their difficulties.

See Also:

Successful ESL

Learning English with Laughter

For help with listening, understanding and speaking

Videos for Chinese speaking students.

About brian_mu8dft39

Successful ESL was created out of our first company, Learning English With Laughter which began in 1990 when we, George and Daisy Stocker, traveled to the historic city of Karlovy Vary in Czechoslovakia, to teach English in a private language school. Communism was over and the people were embarking along the road to democracy. There were hundreds of students eager to learn the English Language, but suitable textbooks were non-existent. Consequently, we wrote as we taught, making countless revisions as we listened to the students' special needs. Upon returning to our home in Victoria, Canada, we have adapted the Teen-adult Series to meet the cultural needs of students in a number of different countries. A variety of adaptations have been achieved through contacts with many countries. Thousands of students have encouraged us to use a conversational approach to English that stresses communication in a variety of everyday situations. See our facebook page:
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6 Responses to Students Need to Learn About Tag Questions, Don’t They?

  1. Amazing! This blog looks just like my old one! It’s on a entirely different topic but it has pretty much the same page layout and design. Outstanding choice of colors!

  2. Linx says:

    Check that off the list of thnigs I was confused about.

  3. Van Rickards says:

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  6. Phillip says:

    Keep working, nice post! This was the stuff I needed to get.

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