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OK with these, aren't you?

'OK with these aren't you?' looks at tag questions.

For a language that 'carries agreements' right through a sentence in far less detail than many others (at least in Europe), English has quite a funny little habit in how it forms Tag Questions:

'He's not going to do that again, is he?'

(The 'he' agreement carried right from front to back of the question, and the repeat turned from negative to affirmative)

How reliable are you at forming such questions accurately? You can't just hide behind an all-purpose 'tag' as in some other languages (German: 'nicht wahr?'; French: 'n'est-ce pas?', etc.) ... can you?

  1. Choose the phrase that completes the question most accurately.
    'I'll need to come back through the town this afternoon and pick up a few odds and ends for supper, then, ... ...'
    'I shall ... , shan't I (or: won't I)?' are the only tags that work properly here.
    The version at Answer 3 is just about possible in certain non-central dialects, but probably not really a good model.
  2. Choose the phrase that completes the question most accurately.
    'There are still plenty of spaces here and there in the auditorium, ... ... ~ if you wouldn't mind sitting separately in a couple of singles.'
    'There are ... , aren't there?'
    (In this case the question is embedded, almost just to check that the listener is following and accepts the circumstances, before the speaker carries straight on into the next consequential stage.)
  3. Choose the phrase that completes the question most accurately.
    'We Brits are used to driving on the left, so the controls are on the right side of our cars; but, to coin a phrase, you other people have them on the wrong side, ... ...'
    'You have ... haven't you?' is a possible echo, but the general form in Answer 3 is far more likely in this context.
  4. Choose the phrase that completes the question most accurately.
    Children whose parents don't leave work before 5 o'clock or so, do their homework under supervision here at school after 4, ... ...
    'They do, ... do they?' ( ~ or indeed, ' ... don't they?' ; but that option was not offered here)
  5. Choose the phrase that completes the question most accurately.
    This is the piece that we fit into the hole round the back, ... ...
    'It is ... isn't it?'
  6. Choose the phrase that completes the question most accurately.
    'Turned out another nice afternoon, after all that early cloud, ... ...'
    Answer 4 is right: we need the negative tag for the (elided) 'feed' : 'It has ... , hasn't it?'
  7. Choose the phrase that completes the question most accurately.
    'You've remembered to put out the recycling bins, in case the collectors come at crack of dawn tomorrow morning, ... ...'
    The form in Answer 2 assumes that the bins have indeed been put out; had the speaker said '... have you?', this will obtain the same information but it sounds like a stronger challenge (i.e. rather assuming that the chore has NOT definitely yet been done, after all).
  8. Choose the phrase that completes the question most accurately.
    'She's arriving next Thursday evening, I think, ... ...'
    Answer 1 is also possible, if what's being queried is whether the listener agrees with the speaker.
    But it's more likely that the speaker is checking when 'she' will arrive, so the tag in Answer 2 is better.
  9. Choose the phrase that completes the question most accurately.
    I suppose I ought to go and get my hair cut sometime before I go for that interview next week, ... ...
    Answer 3 is just about possible (and certainly understandable), but not as direct an echo as in Answer 4.
  10. Choose the phrase that completes the question most accurately.
    'At this point in the scene, the dragon comes in, breathing fire and trying to scare everyone, ... ...'
    'He does ... , doesn't he?' : 'does' is the all-purpose 'tag auxiliary', as you've probably realised.
    You might hear such a dialogue as:
    'Young Simon looks so like his father used to at that age.'
    'Now you mention it ~ yes, he does, rather, doesn't he?'

Author: Ian Miles

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