In this question I am asking why we use the negative (isn't it/that), as if we are challenging their point of view, rather than the positive (is it/that), as if we are expecting them to agree with us, when we are asking for confirmation of a statement/asking a rhetorical question? An example of this is; 'wearing makeup everyday is pointless isn't it?' That was a bad example I admit but I think you know what I mean.

  • 'Wearing makeup everyday is pointless, isn't it?' may be paraphrased 'Wearing makeup everyday is pointless. Isn't this true?' You're asking for confirmation of your statement as presented, rather than just asking for the truth value of the premise: 'Is it true that wearing makeup everyday is pointless?' Commented Aug 5, 2017 at 13:21
  • Yes, I understand. Is it okay if I quote you on that? Commented Aug 5, 2017 at 13:48
  • It's not researched and supported by a recognised authority (hence not posted as an 'answer'), but feel free. Commented Aug 5, 2017 at 13:55
  • Here's one of many on questions tags. english.stackexchange.com/questions/64646/…
    – Xanne
    Commented Aug 5, 2017 at 18:00

1 Answer 1


It's one of my pet peeves. Asking "isn't it" when asking for an affirmative response, is actually asking, "is it not", to which the proper response would be "no", if you are in agreement that the statement is true. If you answer in the affirmative, then you are saying it is not so. One should ask, is it true, or is it so, or do you agree, but not don't you agree, since that is asking if you do not agree.

  • Rather confusing answer here. Can you clarify your answers by simple examples and giving some references to what you affirm as true?
    – fev
    Commented Jun 3, 2021 at 20:50

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