Maintaining a Conversation with Question Tags

  • Question Tags Maintaining a Conversation

Being able to make and use question tags when speaking in ‘real time’ is extremely challenging.  It needs you to master auxiliary verbs and follow the question tag grammar patterns.

Grammar Glue!

Auxiliary verbs are short words and are often lost in the flow of connected speech, but don’t underestimate their importance.  They are the ‘grammatical glue’ that holds a sentence together.  We need auxiliary verbs to make questions, give short answers, emphasise things, give reactions and to make question tags.

Question Tags

Question tags are a really useful spoken tool.  We use them to confirm things that we know are true.  And so, by using question tags, we encourage our conversational partner(s) to answer us.  Tags keep a conversation going.  This is especially important in the luxury travel industry, where first impressions are everything and maintaining a polite conversation with guests is so crucial.

Question tags = make someone speak to you!

“It’s cold today.” = no invitation for the person you are speaking with to answer you!

“It’s cold today, isn’t it?”  = please answer me and let’s chat!



When we confirm or check information with someone using a question tag, our intonation rises and then falls at the end of the tag.


“It’s a lovely day today, isn’t it?” = I know it’s a lovely day today.


“You’re going to the beach today, aren’t you?” = I know you are going to the beach.


“You’ve already tried the chef’s special, haven’t you? = I know you have eaten the chef’s special.


Again, remember that we are using question tags to continue our conversation and make our conversational partner reply.

It’s very important to make your intonation fall at the end of the tag to sound natural.  You can practise by listening to my Question Tag Intonation video on my youtube channel.


Language Patterns

Finally for the tricky part.  The grammar patterns.  A question tag is:

An auxiliary verb + a pronoun.

The auxiliary verb must match the auxiliary verb from the first sentence.

The pronoun refers to the noun.

Also, remember to switch from positive to negative, or from negative to positive. If the auxiliary is ‘BE’ then it is easy.

“He is the new executive chef, isn’t he?”

“This is the new cocktail, isn’t it?”

“You’re not working tonight, are you?”


How about in these examples?


“You live near the hotel, don’t you?”

“The manager worked in China, didn’t he?”


Remember that if the auxiliary is do or did then it normally hides.

“You (do) live near the hotel, don’t you?”

“The manager (did) worked in China, didn’t he?”


Remember the whole expression!

One useful tip to get you started with using question tags is to remember the whole sentence+tag as a whole.  Memorise:

“It’s sunny today, isn’t it?”

Once you remember this weather question (and yes, British people love speaking about the weather at the beginning of all conversations!) then you can swap the weather adjective for others:

“It’s windy today, isn’t it?”

“It’s warm today, isn’t it?”


Good luck!