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Guide to Tag Questions in English

August 29, 2018

Guide to Tag Questions in English

Guide to Tag Questions in English

What is a tag question?

A tag question is a short question at the end of a statement. In English, we use them to confirm that something is true (or untrue) or to encourage a response from the person we are speaking with.

Here is an example of a tag question.

You are a teacher, aren’t you?

This is very similar to asking this question:

Are you a teacher?

However, because this is a tag question, we are confirming that something is true. The tag question suggests that we know the person is a teacher (but we want confirmation that this is true). The second question is more vague: we probably don’t know if the person is a teacher.

Notice in our example we have a positive and a negative part of the question.

You are a teacher, aren’t you?

Guide to Tag Questions in English

Forming tag questions

The tag question will change depending on the verb(s) in the positive statement.

Auxiliary Verbs

Whatever auxiliary verb is in the first part of the sentence is the same one we use in the second part of the sentence.

  • She is Canadian, isn’t she?
  • She isn’t Canadian, is she?
  • They aren’t married, are they?
  • They are married, aren’t they?
  • You can speak French, can’t you?
  • You can’t speak French, can you?
  • You will be at my party, won’t you?
  • You won’t be at my party, will you?

Present Simple

When the verb of the first part of the sentence is in the present simple, then we use do/does in the tag.

  • You like ice cream, don’t you?
  • You don’t like ice cream, do you?
  • You live by the beach, don’t you?
  • You don’t live by the beach, do you?

Past Simple

When the verb of the first part of the sentence is in the past simple, then we use did in the tag.

  • You studied in Florence, didn’t you?
  • You didn’t study in Florence, did you?
  • You lived in San Francisco, didn’t you?
  • You didn’t live in San Francisco, did you?

You can basically continue this pattern for all of the English tenses.

  • She is living in Spain, isn’t she?
  • They were traveling in Europe, weren’t they?
  • He has been to Thailand, hasn’t he?
  • You haven’t met my mom, have you?
  • He hadn’t met you before tonight, had he?
  • You hadn’t been thinking about canceling the party, had you?

 

Grammar

SO DO I vs. ME TOO

May 11, 2018

SO DO I vs. ME TOO

English learners are often confused about when to use SO DO I and when to use ME TOO. Do you know the difference between SO DO I and ME TOO, and when to use them? Read on!

SO DO I vs. ME TOO

Both SO DO I and ME TOO are used as a response to simple statements. The statements must be positive (without the word “no” or “not”).  SO DO I is more formal, while ME TOO is more informal.

ME TOO

ME TOO is more informal. It is used in casual conversation.

  • I love ice cream. Me too.
  • I slept so well last night. Me too.
  • I think I’ll order the chicken. Me too.

 

What about negative sentences? For these, we say ME NEITHER.

  • I can’t dance. Me neither.
  • I didn’t sleep well last night. Me neither.
  • I’m not ordering dessert. Me neither.

 

SO DO I

SO DO I is more formal. It is used in writing, in more formal conversations, and in presentations.

  • I love the book The Sun Also Rises. So do I.
  • I think she did an excellent job on his presentation. So do I.

 

SO + [WORD] + I

Note that we can use SO + [WORD] + I/SUBJECT with other positive statements. The middle word must match the verb or verbs of the first statement.  

Use DID if the original positive statement is in the simple past.

  • I loved the book Charlotte’s Web when I was a child. So did I.
  • I thought he did an excellent job in the interview. So did I.

Use a MODAL if the original statement uses a modal.

  • I could order another glass of wine. So could I.
  • I can touch my toes. So can Sarah.
  • He can speak French. So can I.

Use WILL if the original statement uses the simple future.

  • I think I will go to bed. So will I.
  • I think I will study Mathematics in college. So will Janet.

Use the BE VERB with be + ing statements.

  • I am going camping this weekend. So am I!
  • He is going to UC Davis this fall. So are Jill and Thomas.

 

Negative statements

What about negative statements? We cannot use SO DO I or its variations. We must use NEITHER. Use the form NEITHER + [VERB/MODAL] + SUBJECT. Make sure that the verb or modal from the original statement matches the verb/modal in the “neither” statement.

  • I can’t dance. Neither can I.
  • I didn’t sleep well last night. Neither did I.
  • I’m not ordering dessert. Neither am I.

 

Featured Grammar

5 Common English Grammar Mistakes

February 25, 2018

5 Common English Grammar Mistakes

When learning English, it is possible that you will make these 5 common English grammar mistakes. Learn what you are doing wrong and how to break these habits!

The 5 common English grammar mistakes we will focus on are:

  • Subject/verb agreement with he/she/it
  • Singular and plural nouns
  • Overusing modals
  • Forgetting the simple future
  • Misusing the simple future with an adverbial clause

5 Common English Grammar Mistakes

Subject/verb agreement with the third person (he/she/it)

What is wrong: In English, the verb changes only in the third person (he/she/it).

  • I like
  • You like
  • We like
  • They like
  • He/she/it likes

English learners often forget to add an “s” to the end of verbs in the present tense.

Why this is a common mistake: It is easy to forget to add the “s” to verbs for the third person since this is the only time we do this in English.

How to avoid making this mistake: Use the third person more often when speaking. Make it a point to talk about your friends, your family, even your pets! The more you correctly use this form of the verb, the more comfortable you will become with its form and the fewer mistakes you will make.

5 Common English Grammar Mistakes

Singular and plural nouns

What is wrong: English learners sometimes use incorrect subject/verb agreements with nouns.

  • The people is excited. (incorrect)
  • The people are excited. (correct)

Some nouns are clearly singular or plural:

  • One house
  • Two houses
  • The car
  • Those cars

However, sometimes it is not so easy to tell if a noun is plural or singular. Some have an “s” at the end but they are singular, while others are plural.

  • The news is on at 7 pm. (singular)
  • My glasses are broken. (plural)

Other nouns are irregular (do not have an “s”). It is difficult to tell if these are singular or plural.

Why this is a common mistake: When we do not know if a noun is singular or plural, it makes it difficult to have correct subject/verb agreements.

How to avoid making this mistake: Read! The more you read, the more often you will be in contact with these verbs. Native speakers do not have to think about subject/verb agreements for most nouns because they have seen them again and again while reading (or heard them while speaking).

For more information, read our article on Singular and Plural Nouns.

5 Common English Grammar Mistakes

Misusing/overusing modals

What is wrong: English learners often try to use two modals that are not used together.

  • You must to drive safely. (incorrect)
  • You must drive safely. (correct)
  • You don’t can’t drive fast near a school.  (incorrect)
  • You can’t drive fast near a school. (correct)

Why this is a common mistake: Students often confuse modals, possibly because some of them (like ought to) have two parts.

How to avoid making this mistake: Be sure that you know how each modal works. Spend a few minutes learning each one individually so that you do not confuse them. For more information, read our article on Modals of Etiquette and our other article, Modals of Obligation.

5 Common English Grammar Mistakes

Forgetting the simple future

What is wrong: English learners will often talk about future plans, but forget to use the simple future.

  • I call you in five minutes. (incorrect)
  • I will call you in five minutes. (correct)

Why this is a common mistake: Sometimes in English, we can use the simple present for future plans.

  • My plane leaves at 10 am.
  • We arrive tomorrow.

However, this is for a scheduled action, not for a promise or intention.

How to avoid making this mistake: Learn how to correctly use the simple present for future events. Read our article on the Simple Future for Plans to understand how to do this.

 

Misusing the simple future with adverbial clauses

What is wrong: The simple future uses “will” or “be going to.”

  • I will call you tomorrow.
  • We will see you later.

The simple future is often used with an adverbial clause. An adverbial clause modifies the verb: it tells us more about the verb of the sentence.

  • When I get home, I will call you.
  • After we arrive, we will unpack our bags.

We know more about the action of the sentence because of this adverbial clause.

Sometimes, English learners put “will” in the adverbial clause. This is incorrect.

  • When I will get home, I will call you. (incorrect)
  • After we will arrive, we will unpack our bags. (incorrect)

 

Subscribe to the CISL Blog for more (free!) English learning tips!

 

Featured Grammar

Fewer vs. Less in English

February 9, 2018

English learners and native English speakers have problems with the words “fewer and less.” Fewer and less are the opposite of more: it is confusing to have TWO words as the opposite of another word!

Fewer vs. Less in English

How are “fewer” and “less” different?

The rules for fewer vs. less in English are actually quite simple.

Fewer = not as many
Less = not as much

Note: “fewer” and “less” are often used to compare two things. You will often see these words followed by “than” to show how they compare two things.

We use fewer with countable nouns.

  • I took fewer English classes than my sister did.
  • Tom ate fewer candies than Sarah did.

We use less with uncountable nouns.

  • I drank less water today than I did yesterday.
  • We ordered less wine at dinner than we normally do.

Fewer vs. Less in English

How do I know if a noun is countable or uncountable?

Countable nouns have different singular and plural forms.

  • One dog
  • Two dogs
  • One flower
  • Two flowers

Uncountable nouns do not have different forms for the singular and plural.

  • I drank a lot of milk. (not “milks”)
  • We bought some furniture yesterday. (not “furnitures”)
  • You need to add more flour to the cake. (not “flours”)

Uncountable nouns also are broken into pieces or portions.

  • A glass of milk
  • A piece of furniture
  • A cup of flour

To learn more about countable vs. uncountable nouns, read our article.

 

Exceptions for using fewer vs. less

There are some times that we make exceptions with the rule about fewer vs. less and countable/uncountable nouns.

Less vs. fewer exception #1: Money

“Money” is typically an uncountable noun.

  • I am making more money at my new job.
  • How much money do you think we will spend on lunch today?

Fewer vs. Less in English

 

However, we tend to us “less” with the word “money” and all of its forms (“change,” “dollars,” etc.).

  • I have less money than I expected.
  • This dress cost a lot less money than most of my other dresses, but I love it more than the others.
  • Since I started using a debit card, I have less change in my pockets.*
  • We have to spend $50 less on groceries now that we paid for all of our bills.

*In this example, we do not use “than.” However, it is implied. (The person has less change in his/her pockets than he/she did before getting a debit card.)

 

Less vs. fewer exception #2: Time

“Less” is also more commonly used with time. Like money, the concept of time can also be broken into smaller pieces: hours, minutes, seconds.

  • I’ve lived here less time than my neighbors.
  • In the future, I think you should bake the cookies for 5 minutes less. They’re a bit burned.
  • We need to help the company employees spend less time on some of their daily responsibilities, like reports. Then they can spend more time helping customers.

Fewer vs. Less in English

Less vs. fewer exception #3: Weight

As with money and time, the concept of weight has measurable units that are countable nouns. However, we use “less” with weights.

  • I weigh less now than when I was 15. Isn’t that crazy?
  • Babies actually weigh less after they are born. They lose some weight in the first days of life.
  • We need no less than 250 grams of sugar in this recipe.

Fewer vs. Less in English

Less vs. fewer exception #4: Percentages

Using “less vs. fewer” with percentages is a little more difficult. To determine which word to use, we must first identify what the percentage is of, and see if that thing is a countable or uncountable noun.

  • _________ than 50% of marriages end in divorce.
  • _________ than 20% of employees thought they were being paid enough money.
  • _________ than 40% of Americans drink every day.

In these cases, the nouns are countable. We can count the number of marriages (it would be a lot, but we can still count them!) We can also count the employees and the number of Americans these sentences are referring to. Therefore, we should use “fewer.”

  • Fewer than 50% of marriages end in divorce.
  • Fewer than 20% of employees thought they were being paid enough money.
  • Fewer than 40% of Americans drink every day.

Fewer vs. Less in English

We use “less” when we cannot enumerate (put into numbers) the percentage we are referring to.

  • It seems like you put about 30% less effort into your exercise this morning.
  • There will be 30% less sunshine tomorrow.
  • I feel about 50% less motivation from this new boss.

Photos from Shutterstock. 

Featured Grammar Learning Materials Lessons

Grammar Lesson of the Month: Transitive vs. Intransitive Verbs

December 1, 2017

Transitive vs. Intransitive Verbs in English

Do you know the difference between transitive and intransitive verbs? Understanding the difference will improve your English speech and writing.

Grammar Lesson of the Month: Transitive vs. Intransitive Verbs

Types of Transitive Verbs

Transitive verbs use an object. The object can be a noun, a phrase, or a pronoun.

Transitive verb with a noun

A noun is a person, place, thing, or idea. A transitive verb works with the noun.

  • I see the car.
  • I love ice cream.
  • He wants hot chocolate.
  • Have you tried eggnog?

Transitive verb with a phrase

A phrase is a group of words. These words work together as a unit to mean something. There are many types of phrases. Transitive verbs can be used with phrases.

  • I see why you wanted to live in this neighborhood.
  • I love taking long walks by the sea.
  • He wants less now that he’s older.
  • Have you tried talking to your roommate about his dog barking?

Transitive verb with a pronoun

A pronoun is used in place of a noun (usually because we already referred to the noun).

  • Can you see Sarah? Yes, I see her.

 

Examples of Common Transitive Verbs

Here are some common transitive verbs in English.

  • Buy
  • Cost  
  • Give
  • Leave
  • Lend
  • Make
  • Offer
  • Pass
  • Sell
  • Show
  • Take
  • Wish

Intransitive Verbs

Intransitive verbs do not work with an object.

  • What time does your plane arrive?
  • I love to sit on the beach and relax.
  • Today at the gym I stretched and I ran.

 

Examples of Common Intransitive Verbs

Here are some common intransitive verbs in English.

  • Act
  • Come
  • Cry
  • Die
  • Do
  • Go
  • Grow
  • Laugh
  • Respond
  • Smile

Verbs that are Transitive or Intransitive

Some verbs can be both transitive or intransitive, depending on their use. Within the context of the sentence, you can see if the verb is transitive or intransitive.

  • Studying abroad will change you in wonderful ways. (transitive) 
  • This neighborhood has really changed! (intransitive) 
  • Can you close the door, please? (transitive) 
  • When did this cafe close? (intransitive) 
  • Please write an email to Jim and thank him for dinner. (transitive) 
  • When did you learn to write? (intransitive) 

 

Why is this important?

Knowing if a verb is transitive or intransitive will help you properly use each verb: using a transitive verb without an object will of course be a major grammar mistake!

  • Can you see Sarah? Yes, I see. (incorrect)
  • Can you see Sarah? Yes, I see her. (correct)
  • I love to sit on the beach and relax myself. (incorrect)
  • I love to sit on the beach and relax. (correct)
  • Today at the gym I stretched and I ran myself. (incorrect)
  • Today at the gym I stretched and I ran. (correct)