1. Isn’t Istanbul a good city?


  1. Istanbul is a good city, isn’t it?

In (1) what is the term for how “Isn’t Istanbul” is being used here? At first it looks like its function is to act as the subject, but it looks like an extended noun phrase on second glance acting as pre-modifiers to “a good city”.

From what I can see in (2) “a good city” is the predicative nominative with “Istanbul” acting as subject. The “isn’t it” is a subordinate clause.

  • It seems odd to parse “Isn’t Istanbul” as a noun phrase. It also makes #1 ungrammatical. What is your justification for that parsing?
    – Lawrence
    Oct 15, 2019 at 8:12
  • @Lawrence it’s come unnoticed as odd when spoken in everyday vernacular and it’s not uncommon when compared with other negative interrogatives, “don’t you know English?”. I believe they are called question tags. E.g. You’re John aren’t you? / aren’t you John?
    – aesking
    Oct 15, 2019 at 13:27
  • As for my justification for the parsing of it as a noun phrase is because of its syntax position, I don’t know if it is, I would just like to hear people’s opinion. What part of speech or what the function of “Isn’t Istanbul” in the sentence? I don’t think it’s a finite verb: that would be Istanbul isn’t a good city (but that is a statement not a question). So we have maybe “Isn’t” as a non finite verb acting as subject (some sort of particle/gerund) with the noun Istanbul and NP (a good city) = ext noun phrase. You’re right it would be ungrammatical as there would be no lexical verb; ..
    – aesking
    Oct 15, 2019 at 13:48
  • ... but rules are often broken in spoken language. Q: What did you see? A: A gigantic statue with ancient carvings (= no lexical verb).
    – aesking
    Oct 15, 2019 at 13:48
  • (1) is a negative Yes/No Question. Isn't comes first because of Subject-Auxiliary Inversion. (2) is a Tag Question formed from the affirmative statement version of (1); the tag is negative because the base statement is affirmative. Oct 15, 2019 at 14:16

1 Answer 1


The sentence is derived as follows:

Istambul is a good city. (Declarative or statement form) Is Istambul a good city? (Yes/No interrogative) Yes, Istambul is a good city. (Positive reply/answer) No, Istambul is not a good city. (Negative answer) Isn't Istambul a good city? (Negative interrogative) When a question tag is added to it, it goes like "Istambul is a good citym, isn't it?"

This is a single-clause sentence with Istambul as the subject, IS, the verb, and the remaining make a complement phrase.

  • Not exactly what I was looking for. You didn’t answer what “isn’t Istanbul” is in the negative interrogative.
    – aesking
    Oct 15, 2019 at 7:51

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