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Tag questions in English

A tag question is an abbreviated question that follows a statement. Typically, a positive statement is followed by a negative tag question. A negative statement is followed by a positive tag question.

It’s a beautiful day, isn’t it?
I didn’t offend you, did I?

Both the statement and the tag question have their own intonation patterns. The statement portion is just like any other statement.  It follows the “Jump up; step down” pattern.  The tag question which follows may either fall in pitch or rise in pitch.  It depends on the context and meaning.

1) When the speaker is almost sure of the statement, the tag question falls in pitch.
"It’s a beautiful day, isn’t it?"
2) When the speaker is much less sure whether the statement is true, the tag question rises in pitch.
"I didn’t offend you, did I?"

“It’s a beautiful day, isn’t it?” There is little doubt about this. The sun is shining. The speaker knows that it’s a nice day!

“I didn’t offend you, did I?” Here, the speaker is not at all sure.

Since the speaker is less certain about the statement, the pitch rises in the tag question.

An accent training program at Confident Speech includes learning how to use the voice correctly for different phrase and sentence patterns. Explore our web site to find out about the range of our training options. Or contact us.