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ESL forum > Grammar and Linguistics > Question tags with "must"    

Question tags with "must"


Question tags with "must"
Hello again,

I came across a grammar question in a worksheet on question tags today.

The sentence started: You must trust me, _________ .

The answer key said: You must trust me, mustn t you.

I don t think that s correct, because of the different meaning of "mustn t".

In general I think that this sentence shouldn t be used with a question tag at all. The context with "must" doesn t really leave any room for that.
If I have to, either I might say: "You have to trust me, don t you?" or maybe: "You have to trust me. Won t you?" Still - the last one doesn t seem to be fitting from my point of view.

What do you think / say?

Thanks for your opinions!


12 Sep 2011      

maryse pey�

in my opinion it sounds correctly. It probably depends on the context.
1) This might be an encouragement to someone depressed.
This sentence might be from a friend : you have always trusted me and be happy to listen to my opinion, advice... Now I won t let you do something wrong because I want to help you. �
So this tag would reinforce the speaker s decision to help a friend.
2) Or on the contrary this is someone with a great power of decision, a great influence. The speaker reinforces the idea that the one in front of him can do nothing else that what is asked him to do. For example, the leader of a sect to his disciples.
hope this could help.

12 Sep 2011     


In my opinion it is also correct. In this case mustn t  is used as a question tag, a phrase that has been added to the main part of the sentence to have a reaffirmation from the speaker.

12 Sep 2011     

United States

It is correct - but no one uses it anymore - it s really out-of date.Thumbs Down

If you write:

You must trust - the answer would be - "must you not?"  (which was used over 100 years ago)
Must you not is mustn t in today s daily speech. (like you mustn t do that)

Why these books are teaching redundant question tags is beyond meWacko - but
the answer to that question, in today s terms would probably be:

You must trust me - alright?
  OK? or won t you?

Remember -
a positive sentence has a negative tag and
a negatvie sentence has a positive tag.

12 Sep 2011     


Since it is used as a form of encouragement, as maryse said, it could also be in the imperative: "Trust me!"
In this case, the question tag would be :"..., won t you?" as libertybelle said.
So, it s not a case of the grammatical use of "must" but rather the pragmatic use of the utterance.

12 Sep 2011     

United States

Good point Valentin.
But the reason for tags is to make sure we re understood. It s nothing more that a question to a statement to make sure the listener has gotten the message and is forced to answer.
So it is a kind of re-enforcement.

12 Sep 2011     

United Kingdom

Dear Mietz,


The original query relates to Question Tags, or Tag Questions.


𨯗n A 𩗗 of English Grammar and Usage�, says, (slightly abbreviated), 𨯗 tag question is a little question we add at the end of a STATEMENT�.

𨧻ts subject matches the subject of the statement�.

𨧻ts auxiliary, (or be) matches the auxiliary, (or be) in the statement, except that:

i)                    "If the statement is positive, the tag is negative.  If the statement is negative, the tag is positive�

ii)                   𨧻f there is no auxiliary or be in the statement, we use do as the auxiliary in the tag question�.

孏he Tag Question invites the hearer to respond to a statement�.

幞egative Questions expect a 𩂱es� answer, Positive Questions expect a 𤨩o� answer�.  


Here are some of my examples, with my underlining:


㛝ou do have enough money for the bus, don㦙 you?�

𨧻t𠏋 very warm.  You don㦙 need 2 overcoats, do you?�

㛝ou have remembered your passport, haven㦙 you?�

㛝ou haven㦙 forgotten your camera, have you?�

㛝ou are Russian, aren㦙 you?�

㛝ou aren㦙 tired, are you?�

㛝ou dance frequently, don㦙 you?�

㛝ou don㦙 dance the waltz, do you?�

㛝ou like your teacher, don㦙 you?�

 㛝ou don㦙 like bananas, do you?�

 㛝ou attend Peking University, don㦙 you?�

㛝ou don㦙 attend University on a Sunday, do you?�



㛝ou can swim 1 kilometre, can㦙 you?�

㛝ou can㦙 swim 10 kilometres, can you?�

𨧻f you tried, you could swim 5 kilometres, couldn㦙 you?�

𡌃ven If you tried hard, you couldn㦙 swim 20 kilometres, could you?�

 㛝our Dad has given you permission --- you may come to the disco, mayn㦙 you?�

㛝ou mightn㦙 have enough money for your holiday, might you?�

㛝ou must eat, if you want to be healthy, mustn㦙 you?�

㛝ou mustn㦙 eat too much junk food, must you?�

㛝ou ought to get plenty of sleep, oughtn㦙 you?�

㛝ou𠆫e so excited, you shan㦙 be able to sleep tonight, shall you?�

㛝ou shouldn㦙 drink too much, should you?�

㛝ou will be a good boy and go to sleep, won㦙 you?�

 㛝ou wouldn㦙 tell your Father, would you?�


In the context of this query:

㛝ou must trust me, mustn㦙 you?�


I hope that I have helped you.



12 Sep 2011     


And then Les said, "I m right, aren t I?"
Bravo Les - another complete answer Wink

12 Sep 2011     


Have I mentioned recently, that I really love this community and I wouldn t know what to do without it and all the wonderful and helpful people around here?



12 Sep 2011     

United States

That s what I said Les.

Only a tag doesn t invite - it forces the listener to react.

(I don t know why they have to sanitize, sterilize and streamline an explanation in every grammar book??)

Just imagine what a teenager answers to a tag today - and that is not something you can get out of a grammar book!

If I said to my son - "You cleaned up your room today, didn t you?"
He d answer, "Yeah, yeah" in a totally apathetic way - which most teens do -  and of course his room wasn t cleaned at all.Confused

12 Sep 2011     


@Libertybelle - "Yeah, yeah" brings back lots of memories. Usually when I used a tag question the answer would be "Yeah, yeah" as well.

12 Sep 2011     

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