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Tag Question Special Cases

Negative adverbs

The adverbs never, rarely, seldom, hardly, barely and scarcely have a negative sense. Even though they may be in a positive statement, the feeling of the statement is negative. We treat statements with these words like negative statements, so the question tag is normally positive. Look at these examples:

positive statement
treated as negative statement
positive tag
He never came again, did he?
She can rarely come these days, can she?
You hardly ever came late, did you?
I barely know you, do I?
You would scarcely expect her to know that, would you?


We can change the meaning of a tag question with the musical pitch of our voice. With rising intonation, it sounds like a real question. But if our intonation falls, it sounds more like a statement that doesn't require a real answer:

You don't know where my wallet is, do you? / rising real question
It's a beautiful view, isn't it? \ falling not a real question


Sometimes we use question tags with imperatives (invitations, orders), but the sentence remains an imperative and does not require a direct answer. We use won't for invitations. We use can, can't, will, would for orders.

imperative + question tag notes
Take a seat, won't you? polite invitation
Help me, can you? quite friendly
Help me, can't you? quite friendly (some irritation?)
Close the door, would you? quite polite
Do it now, will you. less polite
Don't forget, will you. with negative imperatives only will is possible

Same-way tag questions

Although the basic structure of tag questions is positive-negative or negative-positive, it is sometimes possible to use a positive-positive or negative-negative structure. We use same-way tag questions to express interest, surprise, anger etc, and not to make real questions.

Look at these positive-positive tag questions:

Negative-negative tag questions usually sound rather hostile:

Asking for information or help

Notice that we often use tag questions to ask for information or help, starting with a negative statement. This is quite a friendly/polite way of making a request. For example, instead of saying "Where is the police station?" (not very polite), or "Do you know where the police station is?" (slightly more polite), we could say: "You wouldn't know where the police station is, would you?" Here are some more examples:

Some more special cases

example notes
I am right, aren't I? aren't I (not amn't I)
You have to go, don't you? you (do) have to go...
I have been answering, haven't I? use first auxiliary
Nothing came in the post, did it? treat statements with nothing, nobody etc like negative statements
Let's go, shall we? let's = let us
He'd better do it, hadn't he? he had better (no auxiliary)