1. We have plenty of time, don't we?
  2. We have plenty of time, haven't we?

Which is correct - 1 or 2?

  1. They have already sent you the invitation, didn't they?
  2. They have already sent you the invitation, haven't they?

Which is correct - 3 or 4?

Can you explain the rule by which both are correct/one of them is correct, with practical examples where we can use 'haven't'/where we can't/where we can use both?

PS: The previous post of the similar question was a little unclear with different answers by each answerer.

  • 2
    I think of (1) as being American usage and (2) as British. (3) doesn't seem right. Would Americans say it without the 'have'? Commented Sep 19, 2019 at 16:10

2 Answers 2


Short answer: 1 is common in American English; 2 is common in British English; 3 is uncommon in British and American English; 4 is common in British and American English.

Tag questions (American English), or question tags (British English) are often taught as simple rules, but their use is actually rather complicated.

The simple rules are:

The English tag question is made up of an auxiliary verb and a pronoun. The auxiliary must agree with the tense, aspect and modality of the verb in the preceding sentence. If the verb is in the present perfect, for example, the tag question uses has or have; if the verb is in a present progressive form, the tag is formed with am, are, is; if the verb is in a tense which does not normally use an auxiliary, like the present simple, the auxiliary is taken from the emphatic do form; and if the sentence has a modal auxiliary, this is echoed in the tag:

  • He has read this book, hasn't he?
  • He read this book, didn't he?
  • He's reading this book, isn't he?
  • He reads a lot of books, doesn't he?
  • He'll read this book, won't he?
  • He should read this book, shouldn't he?
  • He can read this book, can't he?
  • He'd read this book, wouldn't he?
  • He'd read this book, hadn't he?


According to those rules, because "we have plenty of time" is in the present simple, the correct tag would be do: "we have plenty of time, don't we?" This is the tag that's typically used in American English.

However, the common (a common?) rendering of the sentence in British English uses have as the tag: "We have plenty of time, haven't we?"

Gunnel Tottie and Sebastian Hoffman have written a very interesting study of the differences between American and British tag questions: "Tag Questions in British and American English".

Here's their summary, with added emphasis on a particularly relevant finding:

Summary and Discussion

We have shown that the use of “canonical” tag questions differs in spoken colloquial British and American English in some spectacular ways:

  • First of all, there are nine times as many tag questions in British English as in similar types of American English (but the frequency of tags is lower in less colloquial British English).

  • The preferences as regards polarity types differ in the two varieties, the greatest difference being that negative–positive tag questions are more frequent in American English than in British English.

  • The choice of auxiliaries or modal verbs in tags also differs, with American English preferring DO-tags and British English HAVE-tags; this can be explained by the differences in the use of tenses in the two varieties and the predilection for HAVE GOT constructions in anchors in British English.

  • Both dialects show a great variety of verb–pronoun combinations, 200 different types in all.  The claim that invariant innit is taking over thus seems premature.

  • Our results concerning the pragmatic functions of tag questions must be regarded as preliminary, but there appear to be substantial differences between the two varieties here as well. Facilitating tag questions account for a greater proportion in American English, and confirmatory and attitudinal uses account for a greater proportion in the British data. Aggressive tag questions are used only by British speakers, but in a very low proportion—only 1 percent of all cases. It is probable that their saliency explains the attention that this numerically small category has received in the literature.  We have not been able to correlate polarity types and pragmatic functions, but it is clear from Kimps’s (2005) research that positive–positive tag questions are not predominantly used in aggressive functions, as has previously been claimed.

  • Speaker age is an important conditioning factor in both varieties, with older speakers using more canonical tag questions and younger speakers significantly fewer. Data from Stenström et. al. (2002) strongly suggest that younger speakers of British English prefer invariant tags like yeah, eh, okay, right, and innit, and we therefore hypothesize that the total use of tag questions and other hedging devices may still be fairly similar across age groups.

  • 1
    I would say that 1 was common in both American and British English. I use and hear the "don't" construction at least as often as the "haven't" construction but I don't know whether Americans use "haven't". I would also say that 3 was not just uncommon but actually incorrect. The only way to use "didn't" in this sentence would be to omit "have" altogether giving "They already sent you the invitation didn't they?" It also seems to me that many, if not most, other languages use a single construction which translates into English as "Is that not so" or, in street speech "Innit".
    – BoldBen
    Commented Sep 20, 2019 at 6:19
  • @BoldBen, all good points. I was being purposefully indirect, emphasizing the fact that there's more diversity in these constructions than is commonly taught. Number three sounds "incorrect" to me too, but I'm not confident that no speakers use it. There are a couple of mentions of the so-called "invariant tags" (innit, yeah, right) in the quoted passage. Maybe worth pulling out of the quotation to highlight, but the answer felt overlong already.
    – Juhasz
    Commented Sep 20, 2019 at 15:33
  • [Using the term loosely, as it can only be used] 'BrE' allows contractions such as he's for he has (the main verb as well as the auxiliary) as well as he is. And 'He's a sister and a brother in Kent' makes the tag question 'doesn't he?' ridiculous. Also, 'BrE'-idiomatic 'He's got flu' makes 'doesn't he?' unacceptable. Otherwise, the Americanism 'We have plenty of time, don't we?' is becoming well established in the UK. Commented Oct 22, 2023 at 18:17

Both are correct. With the passage of time there is a growing tendency, – rather it has evolved into a fixed practice–not to inverse 'Have' verb when it's the principal verb, not a conjugation support of tense formation. That is to say that the verb " to Have" no longer uses the exclusive prerogative which it shared once with " to be " verb and now , in almost all cases requires a "do- support" when we look askance at the main sentence to which the referred tags are interrogation for a positive or negative response. So, both are correct.However, inverting Principal ' to have' , the meaningful one is gradually losing currency everywhere. This much. From the above, it is evident that the tag in no.(3) is incorrect.

So to make the matter more lucid here's a rejoinder. Barring the exception of ambidextrous " to be" , modal auxiliaries and auxillary "to have" we should better have ' do support' in simple present and simple past tenses. This has nothing to do with pedantry.

  • "That is to say that the verb " to Have" no longer uses the exclusive prerogative which it shared once with " to be " verb and now , in almost all cases requires a "do- support" when we look askance at the main sentence to which the referred tags are interrogation for a positive or negative response. " CAN YOU GIVE me some examples? I am afraid I am not able to understand this particular rule.
    – Sristy
    Commented Oct 2, 2019 at 10:16
  • Take for example Indian writer, R K Narayan's Short Story Father's Help where Father asks Swami, " Have you no school today?" Would we ask in this way or seek one ' do support'? I don't call it a rule. "Have" is a potential convert. Someone some days hence would write the rule book. Commented Oct 2, 2019 at 12:36
  • Wikipedia says, while dealing with subject- verb inversion, that the verb "have", when used to denote broadly defined possession (and hence not as an auxiliary), is still sometimes used in this way in modern standard English: so it is getting depleted. Have you any idea what this would cost? Commented Oct 2, 2019 at 16:59

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