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I've just read this page: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tag_question

So regarding this passage:

The term "question tag" is generally preferred by British grammarians, while their American counterparts prefer "tag question".

If a British person uses the term "question tag", does it refer to the American term "tag question"? Is this passage saying the terms are synonymous?

As far as I can tell, "tag question" is a term referring to the "question" and "question tag" is a term referring to the "tag" itself, which means they refer to different things and are NOT synonymous. So why does Wikipedia say that the term "question tag" is generally preferred by British grammarians, while their American counterparts prefer "tag question" when they in fact refer to different things (which means that both British and American will have to use either depending on which term they are talking about)?

"Here's a question tag" means "Here's a tag, and the tag is the question tag".

"Here's a tag question" means "Here's a question, and the question is a tag question."

So are "tag" and "question" synonymous? If not I can't see how "tag question" and "question tag" are synonymous.

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I see what I eat = I eat what I see? –  Thursagen Jun 21 '11 at 5:08
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course nt, dun be silly.. –  Pacerier Jun 21 '11 at 6:01
    
The OED doesn't report "question tag," but only "tag question." –  kiamlaluno Jun 21 '11 at 6:13
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As far as I'm aware, your interpretation is correct. "You're coming tomorrow, aren't you?" is a 'tag question', in which "aren't you" is the 'question tag'. Shocking revelation: not everything you read on Wikipedia is true. –  Neil Coffey Jun 21 '11 at 9:47

6 Answers 6

up vote 5 down vote accepted

Technically, the part after the comma is a sentence for itself. If you say "question tag" or "tag question" you must refer to the second part of the main sentence, the subordinate sentence.

In this regard the both phrases mean the same.

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so are you saying this sentence (yes its a sentence!) "You're coming tomorrow, aren't you?" is not a "tag question" ? –  Pacerier Jun 21 '11 at 10:08
    
"aren't you" is the tag question. Taken as a hole it is a sentence with a question tag. –  marw Jun 21 '11 at 10:18
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You probably meant whole and not hole! –  Gigili Dec 21 '12 at 18:19

The terms are synonymous. Superficially at least, this looks like the difference between "color" and "colour" - that is, different, but not in a way that changes the meaning.

As for why there's a difference, I've had no luck finding any official explanation, but it sounds like there may be a slight conceptual difference - in "tag question" the emphasis is on the "question" (which is modified by "tag"); whereas in "question tag" the emphasis is on the tag. So perhaps there's a difference between how they are thought of - as a question that has a tag on it, or a tag attached to a question.

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i know why "color" and "colour" are synonymous. but why (or how) is "tag question" and "question tag" anonymous? –  Pacerier Jun 21 '11 at 10:06
    
There's no real "why" the two spellings of color are synonymous that is any different from the reason these two phrases are synonymous. An American cookie and an English biscuit are the same thing - they have different etymologies, but they're synonymous because, well, they refer to the same thing. Tomato vs Tomahto. –  kathryn Jun 21 '11 at 15:44
    
It is almost certainly incorrect to refer to two spelling variants of the same word as synonyms. –  Edwin Ashworth Dec 12 at 22:09

I went to a local library and found a grammar book for upper-intermediate students from Oxford University Press, so I thought a picture might worth more, etc., just go to @teacher2go to watch it.

Here it is what it says:

We use tag questions to query a statement.

A: She's Russian

B: Is she? I thought she was German.

So the statement is queried by the tag question in the same affirmative form, and not negative, "is she?"

Tag questions are similar in form to Question tags. However, we use an affirmative tag question after an affirmative statement, and a negative after a negative statement.

A: It's nine o'clock.

B: Is it? I should go home.

A: I'm not ready!

B: Aren't you? Well, then hurry up!

As I said before, it is not a matter of being American or British. By the way, it is a British grammar book I found.

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Wikipedia is wrong! And if you read this explanation and find it wrong as well, then you correct me.

Question tags: They are a confirmation question, they use a different verb form (affirmative, or negative) than the previous statement. Example:

  • Justin loves Selena, doesn't he?
    (The question tag is the only question shown, and also it has a raising intonation, the intonation level goes up because we expect an answer.)

  • Justin isn't appreciated by kids, is he?
    (The question tag is the only question shown, and it also has a falling intonation because we do not expect an answer, being the fact that we are sure about it.)

So, what is a tag question, then?

It is the question (without a change in the verb form) we use to query the previous statement. Example:

Justin loves Selena, does he?
(The tag question is the only question shown, and also it has a raising intonation because we want to express we are not sure if what was said before is true or not.)

Note: there is no change in the verb form. From an affirmative statement its tag question goes in affirmative form as well.

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I think you are right to distinguish tags in which the question is a genuine inquiry from tags in which the question is rhetorical. But unless you cite an authority in the field, I think you are wrong to distinguish the two names on this basis. If you can cite such an authority - or if you recast your answer and supply or invent different names for the two sorts of tag question (or question tag) - I will be happy to give you an upvote. –  StoneyB Sep 6 '12 at 13:08

As i read in Solutions student's book (Upper-Intermediate level). They have different type of "Tag question" and "Question tag". "Tag Question":*affirmative -> *negative while "Question tag" is affirmative -> affirmative .

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As you thought, there is ultimately no real difference in the meanings of these two words, though the nuance may be slightly different. There is no ambiguity; it's just a matter of word choice.

Note that the difference in nuance may have theoretical ramifications, but if it does, I am not aware of them; as far as I am aware, they are equivalent terms.

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i don't get it. they clearly aren't synonymous. "Here's a question tag" means "Here's a tag, and the tag is the question tag". "Here's a tag question" means "Here's a question, and the question is a tag question." SO are "tag" and "question" synonymous? if not i couldn't see how "tag question" and "question tag" is synonymous. –  Pacerier Jun 21 '11 at 6:05
    
@Pacerier As I parse it, "question tag" refers to the "tag portion of a question", while "tag question" refers to the "question which utilizes a tag" -- like I said, the nuance is slightly different, but ultimately they refer to essentially the same thing. One has slightly more emphasis on one part, and one has slightly more emphasis on the other. This is true of many, if not nearly all, pairs of synonyms. –  rintaun Jun 21 '11 at 11:07

protected by RegDwigнt Sep 24 '12 at 15:39

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