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Unit 41. Great Film, wasn't It?

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Question Tags

Unit 41; Part A

Question tags are short questions added to the end of a statement, usually to produce a response from a hearer. We use a falling tone for question tags when we expect the hearer to acknowledge that what we have just said is correct, for example, when we are giving our opinion:
         They didn't PLAY very well , DID they ?
         GREAT FILM , WASn't it
?

We use a rising tone when we invite the hearer to say whether what we have just said is correct or not, for example, when we are not certain that something is true:

         JapanESE , ISn't it ?
         NOT on a DIet again , ARE you ?


Notice that question tags are ofen used afer statements where the subject or subject and verb have been left out.

Unit 41; Part B

Question tags usually have a falling tone when the statement is obviously correct:
           You're not WELL , ARE you ?
           HOT
, ISn't it ?

We also use a falling tone when we want the hearer to admit that something they may not have accepted before is, in fact, correct:

           TOLD you I was RIGHT , DIDn't I ?
           WRONG again
, WEREN'T you

Question tags can also follow exclamations, and these tags usually have a falling tone:

           what a riDICulous thing to SAY , WASn't it ?

Unit 41; Part C

When both the statement and the question tag are positive, the question tag usually has a rising tone:
             Came by CAR , DID you ?
             You've FINished
, HAVE you ?

This pattern is sometimes used to be critical or sarcastic. These sentences often begin with 'So ...' or 'Oh, ...':

            So you THINK you're CLEVer , DO you ?

Question tags (usually will you, can't you, won't you, would you, or shall we) can be added to imperative sentences. These tags usually have a rising tone and are ofen used to soften a request or command:   

            Let's get the EARlier train , SHALL we ?
            TAKE care of THESE
, WOULD you ?
42.1.jpg

 



Exercises

flag.jpgDo you think the question tags in this conversation are likely to have a rising tone (put in the box) or a falling tone ()?
42.2.jpgKey.A: I said it would be worth the effort, didn't I? ↓
B:  Hmm.
A:  You're not tired, are you? ↑
B:  Exhausted. Give me some water, will you? ↑
A:  Not very fit, are you? ↓ Still, not much further.
B:  But we re at the top, aren't we? ↑
A:  Just another kilometre to go. We can't turn round now, can we? ↓
B:  Of course we can. Let's go back now, shall we? ↑ Please.

A: Wonderful view from up here, isn't it?
B:  Great.
A: I said it would be worth the effort, didn't I? ___
B:  Hmm.
A:  You're not tired, are you? ___
B:  Exhausted. Give me some water, will you? ___
A:  Not very fit, are you? ___ Still, not much further.
B:  But we re at the top, aren't we? ___
A:  Just another kilometre to go. We can't turn round now, can we? ___
B:  Of course we can. Let's go back now, shall we? ___ Please.

Now listen and check your predictions. 
flag.jpgListen and decide whether the question tags in S's responses have a rising tone (put in the box) or a falling tone ().
Key.1 ↑
2 ↑
3 ↓
4 ↓
5 ↑
6 ↓
7 ↑

Example: A: Great race. B: She ran well, didn't she?
1    A: I can do that easily. B: Oh, you can, can you? ___
2    A: We'll have to wait ages for the bus. B: But they come every ten minutes, don't they? ___
3    A: What a boring lecture. B: Yes, dull, wasn't it? ___
4    A: Shame about the colour. B: What a hideous shade of purple, isn't it? ___
5    A: Where do you want these boxes? B: Put them over there, would you? ___
6    A: I think there's something wrong with the printer. B: You broke it, didn't you? ___
7    A: Can I get a discount on these tickets? B: You're a student, are you? ___

Now listen again. Press 'pause' before each B part and read it aloud. Then press 'play' again and compare your pronunciation with what follows.

flag.jpgSuggest an appropriate question tag to complete B's responses. Then read them aloud, using either a rising or falling tone on the tag as appropriate.
Key.(Speaker A = Jamaica)
The most likely tag with the more likely tone is given. These are used on the recording.
1 aren't they ↑ (↓ is also possible, but less likely)   
2 wasn't it ↓   
3 will there ↑ (↓ is also possible, but less likely)
4 are you ↓
5 could (or can/will/would) you ↑

Example: A: Did you see the eclipse yesterday?
              B: Fantastic,      wasn't it      ?
1    A: Don't forget your gloves.
      B: They're yours, ________________?
2    A: He could have been killed crossing the road like that.
      B: What a stupid thing to do, ________________?
3    A: Try to come early to get a good seat.
      B: There'll be a lot of people, ________________?
4    A: What a terrible noise.
      B: You're not a rock music fan, ________________?
5    A: Where shall I leave you?
      B: Drop me in front of the station, ________________?

Now listen and check your answers.

Follow up: Many other languages have question tags, although in some a single question tag is used rather than the large number found in English. Think about the intonation of question tag(s) used in your first language. Does it follow a similar pattern to that described in this unit for English question tags?

 
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