Saturday, October 15, 2011

Tag questions and short answers - exercises

Sometimes they're called question tags, sometimes tag questions. It's all the same. I'm sure you know the basic principles, so use your instinct to complete the exercises. The first exercise looks at some standard tags, the others at some more advanced points. There's also a video exercise at the end.
If you have any problems you can consult one of the websites linked to at the bottom. The BBC one is probably the clearest. But try the exercises first. And don't forget the video exercise; it's from a TV comedy series.

Exercise 1 - Use your instinct and enter the tag questions and short answers.

EG. You don't smoke, do you?Yes I do, as a matter of fact.
1He comes from Ireland, ?Yes, .
2She was at the party last night, ?No,
3We've met before, ?Yes, .
4You will remember to write, . Yes of course .
5You couldn't help me with this, ?Yes, of course .
6She'd never been to Venice before, ?No, .
7I bet she'd go again, ?Oh yes, I'm sure .
8I'm such an idiot, ?Well sorry, yes !
9You don't mind if I smoke, ?Well yes, , actually.
10They got married last year, ?No . It was the year before.
11He isn't at all bad looking, ?No, . In fact he's rather dishy.
12You can ride a horse, ?No! Of course
13She used to go out with Damien, ?Oh yes. So .
14Well, he would say that, ?Yes, I suppose .


The use of would in the last question is a comment on somebody's typical behaviour, especially when you disapprove of that behaviour.

Suggestions, offers and imperatives

What verb do we use in tags after 'let's'? and what verb do we use in tags after imperatives? Does it make any difference if the sentence is positive or negative?

Exercise 2 - Use your instinct and enter the tag questions and short answers where applicable.

1Let's go out tonight, ?Oh yes, do . I'm bored.
2Let's not fight about this, ?No, .
3Don't forget to lock the door, ?No, .
4Put that in the bin on the way out, ?OK, .
5I'll turn the light out now, ?Yes please.
6I'll get you another coffee, ?No thanks, I'm fine.

there is/are, negative words and nobody, anything, somewhere etc

What pronoun do we use in tags after 'there is/are'? What pronouns do we usually use after the indefinite pronouns for people anybody etc, and for things anything etc?

Exercise 3 - Use your instinct and enter the tag questions and short answers.

1Nobody called when I was out, ?No, .
2Anybody can go to this party, ?Yes, , it's open house.
3Nothing will go wrong, ?No, of course .
4You never say what you mean, ?Yes,
5There's somebody at the door, ?Oh yes, so .
6It's hardly stopped raining all week, ?No, .
7There's something wrong, ?No, .
8There isn't anybody waiting, ?No, .

Same way tags and ellipsis

Sometimes we use a same-way tag, often as a reaction to what has just been said.
And in informal language we sometimes leave out the pronoun subject and auxiliary verb. We also sometimes also answer with a tag question.

Exercise 4 - Use your instinct and enter the tag questions. Note that in one question there is an opposite-way tag. In all the others, the tags are same-way.

1So, you think you're right and I'm wrong, ?
2I suppose he thought he was being funny, ? What an idiot!
3So she thinks my cooking is rubbish, ?
4You're going to Ann's party too? Oh you know Ann, ?
5You seem to know Berlin well. Been there before, ?
6Lovely day, ? - Yes, just?
7Hello, haven't seen you for a bit. Keeping well, ?
8Hello, Mary. Your mother in, ? I need a word.

Tag questions in Cockney, London and Estuary English dialects

In traditional Cockney, the dialect of the East End of London, tag questions are used where the rest of us wouldn't use them, for example in statements where we couldn't possibly know the answer to the question.
Well I went into this pub, didn't I? And there was this bloke sitting at the bar, wasn't there? And you'll never know who it was. It was only Dirty Den, wasn't it? Well, not Dirty Den himself perhaps, he's dead , but, you know, the actor who played him in Eastenders.
Meanwhile, non-Londoners like myself are going - Did you? Was there? Was it?
Eastenders is a popular soap opera set in the East End of London, and the grammar they use is certainly not the grammar you've been taught - use of double negatives is common, as are non-standard verb forms - I done it already, we was robbed, I seen her yesterday - But it's worth watching to hear how a lot of Londoners actually speak.
Although the use of pure Cockney is declining, many of its features have become part of new dialects such as Estuary English and London Multicultural English.


If you've seen Ali G or certain British TV programmes you might have come across 'innit'. This started off life as a slurred version of isn't it, like gonna for going to.
But for reasons not fully understood by linguists it has now become an all-purpose tag question, in the way that n'est-ce pas is in French, or oder is in German.
  • Great band, innit?
  • You saw him yesterday, innit?
  • She's a stunner, innit?
I think this also used in a similar way to Cockney tags, when there is no actual question - I done it already, innit? [sic]
Although one day it might become universally used, it is at the moment used mainly in street talk, especially in what is sometimes called London Multicultural English. The people who use it are also mercilessly parodied in TV comedy programmes, so for the time being at least you're best sticking with the standard tags.

Estuary English - a comedy case study

Estuary English is the name given to a newish dialect spoken in London and its environs which mixes elements of Cockney, RP (BBC English) and other regional dialects.
It has many variations, but one of them is used in a regular sketch in the Catherine Tait show. This couple could be called 'New Essex man and woman': probably from a working class background, but with cosmopolitan tastes in food and coffee.
Sam, played by Catherine Tait, is always coming home with 'amazing stories' about relatively unimportant events, and Paul is always suitably amazed. Paul is played by Lee Ross, who also plays in Eastenders.
Other language features here are the use of present tenses to tell a story, including present perfect; non-standard verb forms - she weren't there, she seen me; ain't for isn't / aren't and hasn't / haven't

Exercise 5 - If you think the following tag questions are standard tag questions that would be used by people who are not from London nor speakers of Estuary English, click 'Yes'. If you think these are 'narrative' tags, referring to things that happened to Sam that Paul couldn't know the answer to, click on 'No'.

Sam: I've not told you about Donna, have I?
Sam: Well I waited, didn't I?
Paul: Well, yeah, you'd have to wait, wouldn't you?
Sam: I'm on me (my) own, ain't I?
Sam: Well, she seen me walk in,ain't she?
Paul: I bet she was laughing, was she?
Sam: Well, I've ordered me (my) lunch, ain't I?
Paul: Well, you'd have to order lunch, wouldn't you?
Paul: It's like a film sometimes, your life, innit?
Discussion - the answers are of course my interpretation

Ex 6 - Before watching the video, answer these questions:

What do the underlined words and expressions mean?
1.She didn't turn upcomego
2.She let me carry on lookingbehave badly continue
3.She's in fitscryinglaughing
4.I'm like a nuttermad personnut lover
5.She's clocking me the whole timetiminglooking at
Decide if these things are:HotCold
6.Tuna on a baguette
8.Cheese and sun-dried tomato panini
Note - There is one very fast bit. Sam was thinking of having a 'Rocky Road Crunch' for 'afters', but decided that, as she had had a bag of 'Snack a Jacks' on the way to work, she shouldn't 'take liberties' (take chances - perhaps by eating too many sweet things or snacks).
Now watch the video, Sam and Paul
Rocky Road Crunch - BBC recipe; Snack a Jack - Google images



Links - innit

No comments: