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I've just written a question and only after I'd done that did I think about if it's even correct:

I hope all the scheduled payments will be sent this night, won't be they?

What confuses me is that all examples or real life usage were always "active", and this is passive one so won't be they part looks odd to me.

So, am I correct?

PS: bonus question: is there a generic name for the phrases like "you do know that, don't you?"?

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There are lots of questions relating to do support (in fact we have a tag: do-support) here are some I think will help: Why do we use 'did' with questions using the simple past tense?¤Why must “not” frequently be paired with “do”?¤Why is “do” sometimes put before a verb?. I haven't found a duplicate of your query, so you could ask it as a question if you're still pondering. –  Matt Эллен May 30 '12 at 10:57
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I changed "I've thought about if it's even correct" to "did I think about if it's even correct". I could have changed it to "have I thought". I don't know why, off the top of my head, the inversion is necessary (I have -> have I) but it feels wrong the other way around. –  Matt Эллен May 30 '12 at 11:10
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Here's some reading about inversion on wikipedia. I haven't looked for questions on the topic yet. There is an inversion tag, though, to get you started. –  Matt Эллен May 30 '12 at 11:14
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@MattЭллен We use inversion in time clauses that have a conjunction with negative polarity (not, only, no sooner, never). –  Mark Beadles May 30 '12 at 12:10
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@speedyGonzales I'm not familiar with that term –  Mark Beadles May 30 '12 at 14:01

4 Answers 4

up vote 9 down vote accepted

The grammatical version of your sentence is:

All the scheduled payments will be sent this night, won't they?

This question at the end of the statement is a question tag. It is used when the speaker wants to check that the statement is correct. In order to form it you use only the auxiliary verb (will in your case) with the subject of the verb in negative question form.

In order to avoid getting confused, you can form a simple question with the statement you want to confirm:

The scheduled payments will be sent tonight.

Will the scheduled payments be sent tonight?

This is the question formed with your sentence, not *Will be the scheduled payments sent tonight?

PS: Tonight is more natural than this night.

EDIT: Fumblefingers' and Shoe's answers have pointed out the obvious: the sentence is grammatical only if you say The scheduled payments will be sent tonight, won't they? discarding I hope. I should have pointed this out myself earlier.

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Wonderful, thank you –  zerkms May 30 '12 at 10:33
    
+1 for the great answer. Although you are not quite right : Unbalanced tag questions" (positive to positive or negative to negative) may be used for ironic or confrontational effects: Do listen, will you? Oh, I'm lazy, am I? Jack: I refuse to spend Sunday at your mother's house! Jill: Oh you do, do you? We'll see about that! Jack: I just won't go back! Jill: Oh you won't, won't you? (Wikipedia). It is not always in negative question form. –  speedyGonzales May 30 '12 at 13:00
    
@Irene: Following your edit I've cancelled my downvote, but I have't reversed it to an upvote because I don't think your suggested "I hope all the scheduled payments will be sent this night, won't they?" is grammatically valid. Unless you discard "I hope" completely, the only valid version is "I hope all the scheduled payments will be sent this night, don't I?". Which is slightly contrived and sounds potentially "uneducated", but is imho "correct". –  FumbleFingers May 30 '12 at 17:45
    
@FumbleFingers: Hmmm... I wouldn't have cancelled the vote if I were you. I was careless and it served me right. Thank you anyway. Now, my suggested answer after the edit is with "I hope" discarded. I've edited it again so that it will be obvious. –  Irene May 30 '12 at 17:58
    
@Irene: haha softly softly catchee monkey! You can have my upvote after that second edit, but meantime I've been expanding my own answer because I think the bottom line is OP shouldn't be using the tag question format at all in this context. –  FumbleFingers May 30 '12 at 19:08

Phrases such as didn't you? or has he? that are appended to statements (for example to elicit confirmation) are called tag questions or question tags. The tag is based on the finite verb in main clause, so it's:

  • You knew (that) it was my birthday, didn't you? (i.e. didn't you know)

and not:

  • *You knew that it was my birthday, wasn't it?

So this is the first problem with your sentence. You are basing the tag question on the verb of the subordinate clause, which doesn't work.

Removing the main clause leaves us with:

  • All the scheduled payments will be sent this night.

To this you can add the tag, won't they. If you wish to include be, which is unnecessary and unusual, then it is in the wrong place (the second problem). It should be:

  • ?All the scheduled payments will be sent this night, won't they be?

And if you do this, some people would say that the comma needs to be replaced by a semi-colon because you have made a new clause rather than appending a tag question.

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+1 for mentioning the awkward placing of the question tag for a subordinate clause, which I omitted in my answer. –  Irene May 30 '12 at 10:48
    
+1 for a succinct answer. –  Qube May 30 '12 at 12:22
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Mmm I don't understand your first example. What was your point here ? –  speedyGonzales May 30 '12 at 13:03
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@SpeedyGonzales, If you mean "You knew it was my birthday, didn't you?", my point was that the tag needs to be based on the verb in the main clause, not on the verb in the subordinate clause as in the OP's example. –  Shoe May 30 '12 at 13:21
    
Yes, got it now thanks Shoe- he cant question when he has birthday. –  speedyGonzales May 30 '12 at 13:27

There is no "grammatically correct" way of appending OP's question tag "won't they [be]?" to the statement, because the operative verb in the preceding main clause is hope, not will be sent. Thus...

"You hope it is, don't you?" is a valid utterance (don't echoes you do hope), but

"You hope it is, isn't it?" isn't valid English (it would have to be "It is, isn't it?").


EDIT: A tag question can occur in a wide variety of contexts, but checking related earlier questions I see mention of only the most basic usage (convert a statement into a genuine question).

Tag questions are primarily a feature of "interactive speech", rather than writing, but in practice they're not normally "questions" expecting "answers". They're usually a rhetorical device implicitly assuming an affirmative answer, serving to emphasise the truth of the original statement. And very often even that preceding statement only indirectly addresses the real subject...

"Darling, you do love me, don't you?" (could meaningfully be answered with the expected "Yes").

"I married you, didn't I?" (doesn't directly answer the question, nor does it expect any answer as such).

In the above case, the emphasis is probably intended to amplify reassurance, but the form is also commonly used to indicate/amplify belligerence...

"I'm sorry I spilled your pint"

"You're cruising for a bruising, aren't you?" (more likely "ain't you?" in my neck of the woods!).

In OP's example, it simply isn't appropriate to append the grammatically valid tag question, since...

"I hope all the scheduled payments will be sent tonight, don't I?"

...could only reasonably be interpreted as a belligerent response to a question such as "Do you even care whether our suppliers will make deliveries as normal next week?"

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I've already upvoted your answer, I can't do it again. I agree with you 100%, that's why I suggested discarding "I hope" so that the tag question would apply for "All the scheduled payments will be sent tonight". –  Irene May 30 '12 at 19:21

The question in its full grammatical form is “Will they not be?”, which in this sense sounds funny to native speakers. It is practically always contracted to “Won't they be?”, despite the different placement of "not". There is no form in which they can ever appear after be, therefore the phrase “won't be they?” appears to be completely wrong and would probably prompt an expression of confusion for native speakers.

As far as the generic name, there seems to be no real consensus. They appear to be most commonly referred to as “Tag questions”, as in wikipedia, but not all sources refer to them as such. I encountered more qualifying names such as “Negative questions as a confirmation of belief” as well.

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