This is confusing. Isn’t it?!

Statements followed by questions (tag questions) are common in spoken English.

The speaker begins with a statement that they assume is true. They use a question to  confirm their understanding.

For example: You understand what I mean, don’t you?! (I am assuming you understand!), or: English is confusing, isn’t it? (I am assuming you think it’s confusing too).

Q*: How do we handle* this negative question tacked on* to a statement.?

A*: Ignore the negative in the question. Respond to the statement.

To respond to “You understand what I mean, don’t you? in my first example, you could say,”Yep!* Got it!”.  If you don’t understand you would say, “No (I’m not sure what you mean).”

In the second example (English is confusing, isn’t it?)  If you agree, you could answer, “I’ll say!* (this is another way to say you agree)” If English is a breeze*  for you, you might say, “I wouldn’t say that. English isn’t any more confusing than other languages.”

NOTE: the two sentences above can be rewritten as, “You understand what I mean, right?”, or “English is confusing, yes?” (Both “right” and “yes” work as tag questions . Just be sure to use the rising question intonation)

When the speaker uses a negative statement, the tag question is affirmative (=positive).

For example: “You aren’t going. Right?” (I don’t think you will go), or “You’re not hurt. Are you?”

Q*: How do we handle* the question following a negative statement.?

A*: The same way as we did before! Ignore the question. Respond to the statement.

So, in the example, “You aren’t going. Right?” I would say, “No”  meaning, “I’m not going.” OR (this is a little trickier), I could say, “Right” meaning, “You’re right. I’m not going.” Note: Responding by repeating the tag, doesn’t always work. If the tag is “yes” or “no”, remember to respond to the statement.  For example: If the waiter says, “No cheese on your salad. Yes?!” then, “yes” means you DO want cheese.  “No cheese on your salad. No?! “No,” you don’t want cheese.

So, don’t let the tag questions confuse you.  Respond to the statement.  (This reminds me of a Bible verse that says, “Let your yes be yes, and your no be no.” see “My take on it” below. )

Watch the confusion caused in this video, when the TA (teaching assistant) doesn’t understand how to respond to a tag question.

This video also has some excellent tips to make sure that your ANSWER to tag questions are clear as well!

      My Take on It*

As I mentioned above, this reminds me of a Bible verse that says, “Let your yes be yes, and your no be no.” I realize that quoting this verse as it relates to tag questions is “taking it out of context*.” The context was talking about making promises (also called “swearing” or making an oath, or taking a vow in some Bible translations)

So, now that we all understand the original meaning, please keep “Yes is yes! and No should be no! in mind to help you remember how to answer tag questions.

😉 Michele