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  1. That is the woman who married Tony, isn't it?

  2. That is the woman who married Tony, isn't she?

Are both sentences correct?

If they are, what is the difference in meaning?

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    1. isn't it? referring to the sentence as a whole, isn't it correct that... 2. isn't she referring to the sentence subject, isn't she the... This is just my best guess. – MegaMark Aug 12 '14 at 10:58
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    In Standard English, tag questions always mimic the main question. "That is ... isn't it?" "She is ... isn't she?". There are dialects where the standard tag-question is "isn't it" no matter what the main question is. – Andrew Leach Aug 12 '14 at 11:06
  • @AndrewLeach There's a reason (see MegaMark above) why, it's not axiomatic. – Kris Aug 12 '14 at 11:57
  • @Kris Yes: we both said the same thing. – Andrew Leach Aug 12 '14 at 12:00
  • See also en.wiktionary.org/wiki/isn%27t_it_so – Kris Aug 12 '14 at 12:21
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Compare:

Is/isn't that the woman who married Tony? (Ans: Yes, it is.)

with

Is/isn't she the one who married Tony? (Ans: Yes, she is.)

In the first sentence, that is genderless, so the response is it. Similarly, That's the one... is referred to with an it.

That can refer to gendered or plural things, but when you refer back to that, you will use it.

  • Is that Marilyn Monroe? Yes, it is.
  • Is that the Rockettes? Yes, it is.

That's (x), isn't it? employs the same principle.

  • That much effort isn't quite necessary, isn't always the case, nor is it always possible to parse this way. The it is supposed to refer back to a "fact," but even that's not mostly the case, it's the existential it as far as the speaker's subconscious usage is concerned. – Kris Aug 12 '14 at 12:06
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    @Kris, note that medica's answer is both correct and comprehensive to the AmE speaker because we don't have the "existential it" the way BrE speakers do. So "... isn't it?" (without a specific, genderless antecedent) sounds quaintly British to us, innit? – Dan Bron Aug 12 '14 at 12:11
  • @DanBron Quaint because as an idiom, it's essentially a Britishism. – Kris Aug 12 '14 at 12:13
  • @DanBron - Thank you for that. I am always forgetting to include that I can only speak for AmE, which does, indeed, limit my answer. – anongoodnurse Aug 12 '14 at 12:36

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