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Tag questions

Tag-questions.jpgWe use tag questions all the time without realising it – “you’re meeting me at the car right?” or “that was interesting, wasn’t it?”

An interesting article on explores the usage of tag questions. The slight upward inflection on the final word of the sentence gives these sentences extra meaning. Linguists see these questions as having two different ‘flavours’:

the kind that ask for information or confirmation [as in the first example above], called “modal” tags, and the kind that try to connect with the hearer’s feelings, softening a statement or opening the door for more conversation, called “affective” tags [as in the second example]. (Source:

Unfortunately, tag questions have been labelled as ‘female’ and have not been studied closely by linguists. More recent studies, however, have found that men use tag questions as much (if not more than) women, and the usage can be more associated with power rather than gender. I know right??

Erin McKean goes on to say:

When you look at what people actually use as tag questions, it turns out to be a fascinating and delightful corner of the language. The modal tag questions, the practical ones, tend to be very straightforward: We’re going to be late, aren’t we?; I should close this, shouldn’t I?; He knows where we’re going, doesn’t he? The affective tags, on the other hand, have a huge range of variation across regions and cultures. Many of us use a simple right? or OK?, or a slightly less simple you with me so far? In the South, you’re likely to hear you hear? (especially in the stereotypical “y’all come back now, y’hear?”). There’s the jokey geddit?, the Brit-tinged savvy?, the goodfellaish capisce?, and the Spanglish comprendo? Some are redolent of old-hipsterism — catch my drift? — and some are associated with urban culture, such as nahmsayin? or aight? Different varieties of English (and other languages) use tag questions, too: Canadians have eh?, Brits have innit?, and in Singaporean English, there’s the borrowed lah.

How do you use tag questions?