English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

Which usage is correct?

  • You shouldn't take sugar, should you?
  • You shouldn't take sugar, will you?
share|improve this question
I detect a difference of emhasize and, as I have to say over and over again, it all depends on context, on the effect the speaker is trying to achieve! – Elberich Schneider Aug 15 '12 at 10:18
The second one is incorrect, with the comma. Notice how in Andrew Leach's excellent answer, he subtly replaced the offending comma with a semicolon. – user16269 Aug 15 '12 at 11:27

In simple usage, the question tag always mirrors the clause which makes the statement:

You shouldn't take sugar, should you?
You won't take sugar, will you?

Changing the question tag makes it into a statement and a supplementary question. Note the change in written punctuation, which may not be so obvious in speech.

You shouldn't take sugar; will you? (That is, will you do that anyway?)
You won't take sugar; should you? (That is, should you do that even if you have decided not to?)

The first, normal, usage is a simple question tag to confirm the assumption implied in the statement. The second usage is actually inviting a contradiction of the assumption.

share|improve this answer
So I'm correct in saying "it all depends on context, on the effect the speaker is trying to achieve"! – Elberich Schneider Aug 15 '12 at 10:37
@XavierVidalHernández Sometimes the difference is easy to demonstrate and explain; sometimes it's actually necessary to ask for context. – Andrew Leach Aug 15 '12 at 10:41
Changing the question tag sounds terribly wrong. It feels like a cracked mirror. In some logical sense, it is probably grammatical, but I can't imagine someone meaning to use it coherently. It might be said "You won't take sugar. (pause) Should you?", but that's a very different thing, it's not a question tag. – Mitch Aug 15 '12 at 13:53

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.