That’s a “tag question”, right?

Have you ever heard about “tag questions” or “question tags”? If not, check the sentences below:

  • You are married, aren’t you? (Você é casada, não é?)
  • We can do that, can’t we? (Nós podemos fazer isto, não podemos?)
  • She won’t come, will she? (Ela não vai vir, vai?)
  • You don’t have a car, do you? (Você não tem um carro, tem?)

This “little” short question in the end of each sentence – in bold – is what Prescriptive Grammar calls “tag questions“. Roughly speaking, they are usually used to confirm the information before them is true or not. Nothing hard to understand when you compare to the equivalences in Portuguese.

The thing is: “tag questions” are a Prescriptive Grammar stuff; when it comes to real life, native speakers of English don’t use them quite often. What they really use most of the time is the word “right?“. If you watch “Friends”, “Bones”, “Prison Break”, “Saturday Night Live”, “Fox and Friends”, “Larry King Live”, “I report for CNN” and so on you’ll notice how often they use the word “right?” instead of a formal “tag question”.

It’s just like in Brazilian Portuguese. Here, when it comes to real life, we Brazilians say “né?” – short form for “não é?” – most of the time. This means that the examples above would be like the following in everyday life:

  • You are married, right? (Você é casada, né?)
  • We can do that, right? (Nós podemos fazer isto, né?)
  • She won’t come, right? (Ela não vai vir, né?)
  • You don’t have a car, right? (Você não tem carro, né?)

Although it may sound weird, that’s how English (and Brazilian Portuguese) is really spoken in real life. “Right?” is what they use when they want to know if the other person understands or agrees to what has been just said.

  • You like studying English, right?
  • It’s available as a CD-Rom, right?
  • He’s totally wrong, right?
  • That’s not the right thing to do, right?
  • They don’t like me, right?

People who are addicted to Prescriptive Grammar will say that this is not the way language should really go. I quite agree with that! However, Prescriptive Grammar is Prescriptive Grammar and language used by people is what really matters in real life. Oh, by the way, you can also use the word “ok?” in place of “right?” in all of the sentences above.

Well, that’s it for today! See you tomorrow!

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