How Do I Teach Tag Questions and Accusatory Questions?

You enjoy tag questions, don’t you? You study or teach English, don’t you?
The above two sentences are two examples of tag questions. Tag questions are often used to elicit a confirmation from another party. The grammar employed involves positive and negative verbs in pairs. Take a look at the following sentences. The examples of the positive and negative verbs have been capitalized.

tag_questionsAffirmative Infinitive verb -> negative Infinitive verb
You ENJOY tag questions, DON’T you?
You DON’T ENJOY tag questions, DO you?

These verbs are infinitive, but many other patterns may be used;
You CAN speak English, CAN’T you?
You HAVE eaten eggs, HAVEN’T you?
They WILL clean the carpet, WON’T they?
He COULD have escaped through the window, COULDN’T he?
She HADN’T moved from the couch by the time the phone rang, HAD she?

The best way to confirm understanding of tag questions is to confirm that the student knows you. Have the student confirm how well they know you, asking questions about nationality, favorite foods, sexual orientation, work schedule, etc.After the student has asked 5 questions, switch and ask the student 5 questions. This is where the exercise becomes difficult, because Japanese responses may be “Yes, I don’t”, which is unnatural in English. Inform the student that they should answer as though the question is not a tag question. For example;
You aren’t Chinese, are you?
No, I am not (Chinese).
Your parents are still alive, aren’t they?
No, they are not (alive).

Accusatory questions are similar to tag questions, but as indicated by their name, are much more accusatory in fashion. They are used when you are in disbelief of a situation.
Don’t you like cake? (surprise that the person is not eating/enjoying cake)
Haven’t you seen Castleblanca? (surprise that the person has not seen the classic movie Castleblanca)
Can’t you breathe through your nose? (surprise at the student’s breathing through their mouth)

cute dog

This is an inspiration dog

Even if the student is an abrasive one, it is never wise to attack their character through this grammar. Set up a role-play with a stuffed animal, and have the student pretend that the stuffed animal is a real person, but with animal traits, and have them lecture the person on proper behavior. For example, with a dog stuffed animal, the student may respond “Won’t you stop barking while driving?”, or a cat with the response “Can’t you stop sleeping on my keyboard?” Have fun with the activity, but do not let tempers get the best of anyone.

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2 Responses to How Do I Teach Tag Questions and Accusatory Questions?

  1. Chris says:

    It’s CASA. BLANCA. You dipshit.
    Casa Blanca.

    Jesus Christ.

  2. Kay Swell says:

    I really appreciate this post. I have been looking everywhere for this! Thank goodness I found it on Bing. You have made my day! Thx again

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