We have had questions and answers here and elsewhere about how to properly question-tag or respond to normal statements like

I go to the store on Tuesdays
I hate mushrooms

and to "negative-polarity" statements like

I never go to the store on Tuesdays
I don't hate mushrooms.

There are also claims that hardly is a negative-polarity indicator, particularly at To What Extent is Hardly a negative Adverb?

However, as noted at that question, hardly is a strange word, and in particular, I suddenly have cause to wonder how hardly (and its compatriots in strangeness, rarely and seldom) work with tag questions and agreements. Beyond the stated links (and some of the links out from those), however, I have found precious little information on dealing with these words, and precisely nothing on how they affect tag questions and responses.

To my ear, all of these sound wrong as tag questions/responses:

He seldom goes there, ?doesn't he?
He seldom goes there, ?does he?

He seldom goes there. ?—neither do I/Me neither.
He seldom goes there. ?—so do I/Me too.

He seldom goes there. ?—But I do.

(You can substitute rarely or hardly ever with the same effect in those examples.)

So, is there a correct tag question or simple response form for these sorts of statements? Is my ear wrong, and some of these formats are accepted? Or is my default reply of "Same here" or a full-sentence counter (e.g. "Oh, I go there pretty regularly") the norm?

  • 1
    Am I right? and Am I wrong? mean virtually the same thing for an either/or question(half empty/half full). "Neither" means two things compared are have the same quality. Neither essentially be replaced with "also", as can "so" or "too". If you also do what the person does it doesn't matter if you're agreeing with a negative or a positive? 'But' is the opposite of 'also' so using 'but' you must disagree with the first statement. I don't think the seldom or rarely or hardly are pertinent at al; it's only the "also" or "opposite"(but,however,in contrast etc) that matter?(thoughts,not formal ans)
    – Tom22
    Apr 27, 2017 at 22:44
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    I go to the store on Tuesdays is not a positive polarity sentence. It's just a sentence. There is a real "positive polarity", however, which one finds in phrases like would rather or sort of, which don't work in negative contexts, only positive. That said (and it's merely a matter of terminology), you're absolutely right about hardly -- it's a very strange word. Apr 27, 2017 at 23:18
  • 3
    My kids would agree with I know, right? I'm not sure I have a better answer in adult-speak than your suggestions. I do think that hardly ever sounds better to my ear with the negative-polarity responses than rarely or seldom...maybe because of the ever? But It hardly matters, does it? sounds perfectly fine, even without the ever, so maybe not. (I should probably add that rarely and seldom do NOT sound right to me in that rhetorical sentence.)
    – 1006a
    May 8, 2017 at 20:01

1 Answer 1


"The adverbs never, rarely, seldom, hardly, barely and scarcely have a negative sense. Even though they may be in a positive statement, the feeling of the statement is negative. We treat statements with these words like negative statements, so the question tag is normally positive." [from the English Club article linked below]


  • I never go to the store on Tuesdays, do I? [positive tag]
  • I don't hate mushrooms, do I? [positive tag]

  • He seldom goes there, does he? [positive tag]

  • He seldom goes there; and neither do I. [neither extension]
  • He seldom goes there; but I do. [conjunction "but" + subordinate clause]

EnglishClub.com's page on Tag Questions (Look under: "Special Cases -- Negative adverbs.")
English Grammar: An Introduction (3rd edition) at Google Books
Writing in English at Google Books


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