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Tail Questions

by John November 19, 2020

What are tail questions? When do we use them and how do we make them?

You may be asking yourself these questions and perhaps that is why you are here.Well, if that’s you, you have come to the right place.

In this blog post I will be talking about all the answers to these and more.

Tail questions

What do monkeys, mice, snakes have in common?
Did you guess it? They all have tails.
A tail is the end part of some animals which is long and thin but we can use this word for other things in English too.

When we flip a coin to make a decision we say “Heads or tails”, heads being the top of the coin and tails being the bottom or end of the coin. We also use it for the end of some objects e.g plane’s tail, coat tails, ponytail, pigtails.  

So like these words which refer to the end of something, we can see that a tail question must refer to the end of our structure.

A normal question is a complete question( Question word + auxiliary + subject + verb etc.).
However, a tail question consists of two parts:

The first part is a sentence or statement and the second part(the tail) is a question.

It’s easy, isn’t it?

Questions and Tail questions

First, lets think about a normal question.

If our flatmate arrives home from work and we want to know if they are tired, we might ask:
“Are you tired?”

If they look tired it might be a silly question to ask though. If they seem tired, the probably are, so it might be too obvious to ask this question.

However, we can use a tail question here and it’s fine.
When we believe something and we are almost sure it is true we can use a tail question to confirm we are right.
So, instead of asking “Are you tired” we can say:

“You’re tired, aren’t you?”

Here we have made a statement – You are tired – and then asked a question at the end – “aren’t you?”

This is called a tail question.

Tail questions

We use tail questions when we believe something is true and we want somebody to confirm that we are right

For example: It’s a lovely sunny day today, isn’t it?

How do we form tail questions?

We form tail questions by repeating the first auxiliary verb from the main part of the sentence and putting it in question form.
In other words, we make a sentence and then use the same auxiliary verb we used in the sentence to make the question at the end.

For example: “You are hungry” 

This is a sentence with the auxiliary verb to be(are).

To make the tail question we simply use the auxiliary verb and the same pronoun.
The tail question would be: “You are hungry, aren’t you?

The structure is : Subject + (auxiliary) verb + object,  auxiliary + pronoun?

Structure

Subject + auxiliary + object, + auxiliary + pronoun

Take a look at the following situations and think how you could from a tail question.

Test Yourself

Make tail questions based on the situations below

 

  1. Your mom cooked dinner and it looks like chicken but you want to know for sure. What would you say?
  2. You meet someone who you remember from school and you think their name is Ciara but you want to be sure. How would you ask?
  3. You were watching a football match but had to leave before it ended. You are talking to your friend after and think your team has won but you are not quite sure. What will you ask them?

Main verbs and positive/negative

Lastly, there are some other things you need to be aware of when you make tail questions.
You might have come to realise that in a tail question the statement and the question are opposites, in other words if the auxiliary in the main part of the sentence is positive, the auxiliary in the tail question will be negative.

For example: You are from Spain, aren’t you?

The same goes for if the first part is negative, then the question part is positive.

For example: You can’t drive, can you?

Up to now, we have been using auxiliary verbs but we don’t always use auxiliary verbs, especially in sentences.We often use main verbs. So what happens if we want to make a tail question but the sentence only has a main verb. We use the auxiliary verb do in this situation.

For example: “You speak French, don’t you?” or ” You don’t eat sushi, do you?”

Vocabulary

Mice: the plural of mouse

Ponytail: a hairstyle where hair is tied back and hangs at the back of the head

Pigtails: a hairstyle usually popular with young girls where hair is tied on both sides of the head

Obvious: when something is clear and everyone can see it

Test Yourself

Complete sentences with missing words

2

Tail questions

Enter the missing words to from the tail questions.

1 / 10

It is hot today, ____________?

2 / 10

He's not from your country, __________?

3 / 10

You like Ireland, ___________?

4 / 10

The school has many cool blog posts, _______?

5 / 10

They don't have any friends, ____________?

6 / 10

She goes to Central school of English, _____________?

7 / 10

She's so beautiful, ___________?

8 / 10

You play the guitar, ________?

9 / 10

Your mother is very young, __________?

10 / 10

You are 20 years old, _______?

Your score is

Did you like the post? Please let me know and share it around.

You’ll find more English grammar tips elsewhere on our site and if you’d like information on our English courses in Dublin, please do not hesitate to contact us.

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