I know this is a duplicate, I couldn't get an answer from other topics.

Kids are bad, aren't they? yes they are, no they aren't.

Kids aren't bad, are they? yes they are, no they aren't.

Generally, do you answer the question tag or validate the truthiness of the sentence before question tag.

  • 1
    Can you elaborate on your confusion? Both of your example questions are possible and used.
    – Dan Bron
    Dec 26 '16 at 14:53
  • @DanBron I want to answer both question either with yes or no but with a true answer (kids are good of course). for the first example: "yes they are" gives affirmation to "kids are bad" part of the sentence, while "no they aren't" gives rejection to "aren't they?" part of the sentence. Dec 26 '16 at 15:08
  • 5
    If we assume "kids are good" is true and "kids are bad" is false, then pragmatically speaking, you'd answer both questions with "No, they aren't". You needn't delve deeper than that; English isn't algebra, and isn't amenable to algebraic or logical analysis.
    – Dan Bron
    Dec 26 '16 at 15:17
  • 2
    In speech, the intonation would be different between "No, they aren't" answers to the two questions, because one is agreeing and the other disagreeing with the speaker's displayed presupposition. It's only in print where there's a problem, and tag questions don't occur naturally in print. They're a conversational phenomenon, so if they're in print they're either recording dialog or being rhetorical, and neither of those is important. In speech, the writable answer in words validates the truthiness; or not. Dec 26 '16 at 15:46
  • You couldn't get an answer because there is no answer. Yes, we have no bananas.
    – Hot Licks
    May 26 '17 at 2:18

I am of the persuasion that, as a logical rule, one would respond to the question tag to affirm or negate the statement, rather than answering directly to the statement. However in conversation the answers you have offered are better understood in directly relation to the statement and not the preceding the question tag. Under the core assumption that language serves the purpose of communication and not of being fully logically sound at all times, I think your answers would respond to the statement. My reasoning is as follows:

The first statement/question suggests the questioner is of persuasion that kids are in fact bad whereby the question tag requests that the opposite be affirmed (if the respondent considers the statement to be untrue). Strictly logically speaking, to affirm that kids are not bad (the negation of the statement), one would have to affirm the question tag by simply answering "yes". This is because the question tag asks inversely "... are not they?" (Saying "yes" would serve to mean "yes [I agree that] they are not [bad]". Answering "no" would have the opposite effect - "no [I don't agree that} they are not bad", i.e. they are bad. This is confusing for us because "yes" is almost always used to signal agreement, whereas "no" tends to signal disagreement. By answering "yes", one is actually disagreeing in the case of the first question.

The problem arises with your offered answers "yes they are" and "no they aren't" as these assertions appeal more favourably as logical responses to the statement and not the question tag in the sentence. To fit the question tag, the answer should be "yes they are not", short for "yes they are not bad" which would work as an agreement with the question tag, and vice versa, "no" would be "no they are".

Instead, as I have alluded to, the given answers serve to override the question tag, rather than to respond to it. They are the more commonly given answers by people in conversation because it is easier for people to ponder the statement's validity on in its own right rather than the validity of the statement once it's been encoded inversely by the question tag.

Following the logical rule, the statement is intrinsic to how the question tag is answered (answering logically to the question tag will respond to the statement, but it will seem inverse). If instead the statement is answered to directly, and not the question tag, then the question tag has no real purpose other than to draw more attention to the statement as being open to dispute.

In reality there are few or no people who operate on such logical bases on which they would consider the question tag to derive the correct response. Such an analysis is to be taken as a theoretical exercise rather than instructive toward any practical use. Dan Bron is on the mark when he says that English (language) isn't amenable to such a rigorous logical analysis.




Answer a tag question according to the truth of the situation. Your answer reflects the real facts, not (necessarily) the question.

I think (but am not sure) that answering the tag is the right way to think about it; but the tag is just a reversal of the statement to which it's attached; so it seems to be the same thing.

Kids are bad, aren't they? Yes, they are (they are bad); No, they aren't (they aren't bad, they're good).

Kids aren't bad, are they? Yes, they are (bad); No, they aren't (bad). They're good.

You didn't finish your homework, did you? No, I didn't. Yes, I did.

The important point, in which English apparently differs from other languages, is that your answer to the tag question is not a confirmation of whether the view expressed by the original question is right or wrong. So, you didn't finish your homework. The answer is not "Yes, you're right, I didn't finish my homework." It's "No", because you didn't finish it.

You finished your homework, didn't you? Yes, I finished my homework. No, I didn't finish my homework.

You're going grocery shopping today, aren't you? No, I'm not. Yes, I am.

Kid are a lot of trouble, aren't they? Yes, kids are a lot of trouble. No, kids are really not that much trouble.

Kids aren't a lot of trouble, are they? No, they're not. [Yes, actually they are a lot of trouble.]

The questioner who's adding the tag is usually asking for confirmation, which doesn't mean the usual answer is yes.

Does that help? Can anyone think of a tagged question for which this doesn't work?

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