4

Question:

A man like you should not do this, _______?

Which question tag should I use in the blank space?

  1. should he?
  2. should you?

Which would be grammatically correct? I think 1 is true.

  • I'm inclined to say "A man like you should not do this, should they?", but I'm not sure – Armen Ծիրունյան Feb 25 '15 at 21:47
  • "Bob, you shouldn't be doing this." – Hot Licks Feb 27 '15 at 12:56
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When speaking to Bob, Alice is not talking about him. She's talking about a man like Bob. A general man, who happens to be like Bob. So it's should he.

Bob, a man like you shouldn't do this, should he?

The general statement and its impersonal tag question is not a personal criticism; it's a hedged criticism, a criticism by analogy, a gentle prod in the right direction.

Using should you? as the tag question turns what should be a general statement, "A man like you shouldn't do this" into a specific statement which is directly aimed at Bob: "should you?" It becomes pointed, a personal criticism.

  • Now I read this interpretation, I agree with it more than my original answer. A hypothetical man like-Bob? He is a third person. – TessellatingHeckler Feb 25 '15 at 22:27
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[Edit: seeing Andrew Leach's answer, and ScotM's comments, their replies are better. Consider this wrong, but left for completeness].

Alice speaks to Bob: "Bob, a man like you should not do this, should you?" (Talking to Bob as the second-person)

Alice speaks to Claire: "Claire, a man like Bob should not do this, should he?" (Talking about Bob as the third-person).

Alice starts by speaking to Bob: "Bob, a man like you should not do this", Alice pauses and turns to address Claire: "should he?". (Changing who is second-person and third-person part way through).

In the sentence you've asked, "a man like you" most likely goes with "should you".

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/You

  • 1
    This answer imposes meaning on the sentence that is not required. The expression could introduce an emotional distance to soften a suggested moral judgement, so Bob feels like I'm talking about another man in comparison to Bob, even if I am talking about Bob. A man like you should not do this, should he? Also, it may be my intent to compare qualities and actions without imposing any judgement on Bob. My 12 year old son is struggling to get into the back seat of a Fiat 500: A man like you [6'6" tall] should not do this [climb into the back seat of a Fiat 500], should he? – ScotM Feb 25 '15 at 22:20

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