PSLE English TOTW ~ Question Tags


In this week's Tip Of The Week, we look at a commonly misused end-of-statement question tag in local everyday conversations.

Consider the following:

(a) "I look like a dugong in this dress, is it?"

(b) "You can't balance an egg on your head, is it?"

(c) "The unflushed toilet is your handiwork, is it?"

If you found the question tag 'is it' fishy, but can't quite put your finger on what's exactly wrong with it, read on.

When a question tag appears at the end of a sentence, its purpose is to seek confirmation or contradiction of the preceding statement. The rules that govern the use of a question tag at the end of a statement are as follows:

(1) A positive statement should be paired with a negative question tag

(2) A negative statement should be paired with a positive question tag

(3) The subject+verb used in the statement must correspond to the verb+subject used in the question tag

Back to our examples...

(a) "I look like a dugong in this dress, is it?"

Subject+verb in statement: "I do" [i.e. "I (do) look like a dugong in this dress..."]

Correct question tag: "don't I" (positive -> negative)

Corrected version: "I look like a dugong in this dress, don't I?"

(b) "You can't balance an egg on your head, is it?"

Subject+verb: "you can't"

Correct question tag: "can you" (negative -> positive)

Corrected version: "You can't balance an egg on your head, can you?"

(b) "The unflushed toilet is your handiwork, is it?"

Verb+subject: "the unflushed toilet is"

Correct question tag: "isn't it" (positive -> negative, 'the unflushed toilet' has been replaced with 'it')

Corrected version: "The unflushed toilet is your handiwork, isn't it?"

Now, that wasn't so difficult, (is it/was it)? [Circle the right answer]

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