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ESL forum > Grammar and Linguistics > tag questions    

tag questions



LenkaW
Czech Republic

tag questions
 

Good afternoon,

 

is this tag question correct?

 

HE CAN EXERCISE NO MORE, CAN HE?

 

The verb in the main clause is positive, but the meaning of the main clause is negative - because of the part NO MORE.

 

Is the negative tag question also possible? HE CAN EXERCISE NO MORE, CAN´T HE? It sounds quite odd to me.

 

Thanks for your help.

 

Lenka

29 Jan 2018      



yanogator
United States

Hi, Lenka,
Technically, it is correct with "can he", but the whole structure of the sentence just sounds unnatural. If I had to make that into a question, I would say "He can exercise no more; isn t that right?" A native speaker just wouldn t use a regular tag question with that structure.
 
Bruce 

29 Jan 2018     



cunliffe
United Kingdom

I agree. I think that phrase sounds strange and stilted. You would naturally say, He can t exercise any more, can he? But I also agree that can he? is correct. 

29 Jan 2018     



redcamarocruiser
United States

I agree with Bruce and Lynne, but you can also shorten the "isn t that right"to r"ight". 
 
"He can exercise no more, right?" 
 
He can ´t exercise any more, right?  

29 Jan 2018     



Antonio Oliver
Spain

Hello,

To add a bit to the discussion, I found a good explanation on why we sometimes use a "same charge" tag question on

https://multimedia-english.com/grammar/question-tags-special-cases-34

We can use an affirmative question tag with an affirmative sentence and with a falling intonation. We use these same-way question tags when we are just repeating what somebody said (maybe even the listener), so we are not asking a question or looking for confirmation, we are simply repeating information to express interest, surprise, concern or some other reaction.

Compare:

- David is your boyfriend, isn t he? (I think he is, but I m not sure)
- Oh yes, he s my boyfriend

- David is your boyfriend, is he? (I know perfectly well, I just want to let you know that I know)
- Well, yes. Who told you?
- Oh, everybody knows now

 
Hope that helps
 

29 Jan 2018     



cunliffe
United Kingdom

Excellent point, Antonio.
So you can explain this better than us natives, can you??? 

29 Jan 2018     



yanogator
United States

Lynne, You shouldn t be surprised by that, because non-natives are taught the language more thoroughly (as Henry Higgins emphasized).
 
Antonio,
I only half agree with your examples. As a native speaker, I use these rising and falling intonations, but not with the implications you indicate.
 
 I would use "David is your boyfriend, isn t he? ↘ when I know and am looking for verification, or for clearing up what seems to be a contradiction.
"David is your boyfriend, isn t he? Then why did I see him with Julie this afternoon?" 
 
I would use  David is your boyfriend, is he? ↘ when exposing some kind of shenanigans in the conversation. "Oh, David is your boyfriend, is he? Didn t you say yesterday that he was your brother-in-law?"
 
Bruce 

29 Jan 2018     



Antonio Oliver
Spain

Lynne, 
 
Non-natives are usually strong in Grammar -we had no choice when learning a language but to try to find logical patterns in something that s so often arbitrary!
"What s in a name? That which we call a rose
By another name would smell as sweet"
 
Natives are irreplaceble though when it comes to usage, pronunciation, intonation and vocabulary. At least that s the way the think at my school: native English speakers take care of the smallest students to give them a much necessary "language exposure", as well as the high-level adults to help them fine-tune their skills, whereas Spanish deal better with the challenges of intermediate levels, where all the rules need to be explained.
 

Bruce, you re right!
 
Entonation and the use of 2 affirmative verbs (one in the main sentence, one in the tag) can convey a world of intentions / feelings:
 Doraemon to Nobita: "You failed the test, did you?
...So our team lost again, did they?  (they always lose)
 

Lenka,
To go back to the original question, the theoretical tag for your example should be positive (affirmative) if we agree that the preceding sentence, as a whole, is negative in meaning despite having a verb in affirmative form:
He can exercise no more, can he? 
 

Thanks guys 
 

30 Jan 2018     



cunliffe
United Kingdom

Bruce, I m not surprised at all, au contraire!
 
I well remember my first foray as an EAL teacher, rather than an MFL teacher. A student asked me when we use the past simple and when we use the perfect tense. I hadn t a clue! I just said, Ah, you know, just choose whichever one sounds right! LOL Then I asked my colleague, a Spaniard, who was shocked that I hadn t been able to answer that question! I genned up a bit, but in a grammar knowledge contest, I still wouldn t pit myself against Giorgi or anyone like that! 
 

30 Jan 2018     



LenkaW
Czech Republic

Dear colleagues,

 

both native and non-native. Thank you very much for your help. I´m really glad to be a member of this wonderful international community.

 

Lenka

30 Jan 2018