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Can we use possessive pronouns in tag questions? For example,

Your name is Ben, isn't yours?

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2  
Nope, you can't. That would be ..., isn't it? –  Cerberus Jan 10 '13 at 22:02
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Your example is simply not grammatical, sorry. –  Cerberus Jan 10 '13 at 22:21
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You could say "My name is Kathrine, what's yours?" But not what you did say. –  Robusto Jan 10 '13 at 22:37
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@Robusto: Yeah, and that's technically not a tag question...at least not according to the definition I learned. –  Cerberus Jan 10 '13 at 22:40
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@Cerberus well this is just a matter of semantics! i'm just treating this as a case of an improperly-formed tag question. –  jlovegren Jan 11 '13 at 4:12

3 Answers 3

It does sound weird. The tag question construction when formed from a clause with a [be] auxiliary or copula needs a subject pronoun to stand in. Not surprisingly, all the top hits in COCA are for the subject pronouns it, you, they, he, we, she, they. We also see expletive there showing up frequently when the tag is formed off of an existential there construction. There are, however, two hits that merit some scrutiny, isn't that and isn't this.

, IS N'T IT ?                      4627
, ARE N'T YOU ?           1214
, WAS N'T IT ?               766
, ARE N'T THEY ?       512
, IS N'T HE ?                   413
, ARE N'T WE ?             252
, IS N'T SHE ?                244
, WERE N'T YOU ?      196
, WAS N'T HE ?             191
, IS N'T THERE ?        156
, ARE N'T I ?                  147
, WERE N'T THEY ?   114
, WAS N'T SHE ?         89
, ARE N'T THERE ?    49
, WAS N'T I ?                38
, WAS N'T THERE ?  37
, WERE N'T WE ?       29
, WERE N'T THERE ?  10
, ARE N'T YA ?              9
, IS N'T THAT ?             1
, WERE N'T I ?               2
, IS N'T THIS ?                 1

Both of these come from talkshow transcripts, where people are speaking fast and constantly interrupting each other.

When we weed out the spurious uses of isn't that, one remains:

That's OK. And we are talking now about a very modest goal of trying to get over 70 Democratic votes in the House out of 211. That's what we're talking about , is n't that ? You think you'll make over 70?

And the instance of isn't this is not spurious either:

MR-GREGORY: Well, let me, let me, Secretary Duncan, let's, let's -- what do you see... SEC'Y-DUNCAN: Right. MR-GREGORY:... in the sense of the overall here? Because this is really the core , is n't this ? SEC'Y-DUNCAN: That's right. It is the core.

I wouldn't be surprised to find in very casual or incautious speech something like

My daughter struggles with math, but yours isn't having any problems, isn't yours?

For a non-native speaker, though, steer clear!

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I can imagine a sentence like: "My dog is a dachshund, isn't yours?" but this would probably not technically qualify as a tag question. We would absolutely never say, "My dog is beautiful, isn't mine?"

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No, that would be incorrect. as Cerberus stated, the correct sentence would be "Your name is Ben, isn't it?" The correct pronoun to use in the tag question is the "it" not the possessive "yours."

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Not even a possessive pronoun as the actual subject gets one in the tag: Theirs is better, isn’t it? –  tchrist Jan 10 '13 at 23:00

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