3

Example 1:

The weather is hot, isn't it?

vs.:

The weather is hot, is it not?

Example 2:

Aren't you going to study tonight?

vs.:

Are you not going to study tonight?

Apart from convenience in pronuncation, how do the above versions differ (contraction vs. full form)?

  • 1
    It's formality. – marcellothearcane Sep 24 '19 at 12:58
  • 2
    Of course it's not mandatory, but "...is it not?" sounds either very formal or consciously old-fashioned. I think I might use a construction like "Are you not going to...?" if I wanted to put particular stress on the not. Also, I'm sure I have seen "Are not you...?" and the like in 19th century novels. – Kate Bunting Sep 24 '19 at 14:16
  • All that's needed for a tag question is some question intonation (note that they're always Y/N questions, never Wh-questions, and thus have intonation as part of their marker). This is where "Hmmmmmm?" and its infinite variants come into play. Syntactic tags are kludges by comparison, and they're virtually always contracted and reduced phonologically, just enough to carry the intonation. Elaborating what amounts to a question mark is pretty rococo, and correspondingly rare. It is done only for some specific effect, in a few specific circumstances, by a few people. Let's let it go at that. – John Lawler Sep 24 '19 at 19:13
5

It’s just extremely common to see tag questions that use contractions as opposed to their uncontracted forms.

A COCA search for , _v* * * ? (comma, verb, two words, and a question mark; note that “n’t” is considered a separate word) shows that “isn’t it?“ is much more common (5395 hits) than “is it not?” (334 hits).

Still, 334 hits is not insignificant. There’s nothing wrong grammatically with the uncontracted form. It (in general as well) is just more emphatic and sounds more formal.

| improve this answer | |
  • The same type of questions are appearing on ELL andELU – successive suspension Sep 24 '19 at 16:33
  • @JVL You mean the identical question from the same person … – Jason Bassford Sep 26 '19 at 6:07
  • @Jason Bassford.Not one person but someother is copying the same question from the different site – successive suspension Sep 26 '19 at 7:16
4

Tag's generally use less formal language as a standard because tags themselves are a less formal way of speaking.

You could use the full form if you want, but the tone changes and makes the sentence more emphatic. Sometimes this change in tone is what you're intending.

For example:

You knew you were coming home late, didn't you?

... sounds less severe than...

You knew you were coming home late, did you not?

... which sounds like something an angry parent would say to emphasis the gravity of the situation.

| improve this answer | |
  • 3
    Tag's what? And who is he anyway? – David Sep 24 '19 at 16:53
  • 3
    @David He is presumably some sort of grocer. – Mitch Sep 24 '19 at 17:03

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.