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I came across this sentence:

But I craved it so hard at the time, didn't I just?

The author appears to be a native speaker. The part that confuses me is the "just" at the end of the question. Is it meant to lessen the guilt of "craving it"? If so, can question tags be ended with other words than "just" to slightly alter the meaning of the question?

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    I can think of one variant, ... didn't I though?
    – Lee Mosher
    Commented Aug 28, 2023 at 3:29
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    Didn't you, really? Did she actually? Were they so? Commented Aug 28, 2023 at 3:30
  • 2
    Oxford Languages gives "Didn't he just?" as something said to agree with another person's statement. Adding it to a statement of your own serves to emphasise it. Commented Aug 28, 2023 at 8:05
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    Tags, by their very nature, seek confirmation of the truth of a preceding statement. Your example is no different other than it has the addition of "just" used for emphasis.
    – BillJ
    Commented Aug 28, 2023 at 9:04
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    ', didn't I just' is rather dated for ', I really did'. Commented Aug 28, 2023 at 11:05

3 Answers 3

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just is an emphatic.

Isn't that puppy just adorable?

This soup is just delicious!

So in your tag it adds emphasis.

Is it meant to lessen the guilt of "craving it"?

No, it has nothing to do with justice. It's not saying that the craving was understandable or reasonable or normal under some set of circumstances.

The speaker is saying in other words, "I was really wanting that, wasn't I?"

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  • Your examples do not match the usage the question explicitly asks about. Your "just" is certainly emphasizing the following adjectives, but if we take the "just" as an emphasizer -- and granted, we probably should -- it's still not being used the same way grammatically. Commented Aug 29, 2023 at 13:30
  • @JohnBollinger Not all answers to questions about language need to involve grammar. OP asked a question about the semantics of the word. The word emphasizes the declaration, and it can be used in a rhetorical question tag to the same end.
    – TimR
    Commented Aug 29, 2023 at 17:31
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@TimR is correct - "just" is being used to emphasize the content of the question and not to alter it, as you (reasonably without context) supposed. By adding "just" to the end of the sentence, it implies the following:

But I craved it so hard at the time... Didn't I just crave it so hard?

An equivalent way of saying it would be:

But I just craved it so hard at the time... Don't you agree?

The emphasized text in my first example is an ellipsis - that is, the meaning is implied and to be inferred because of examples like @TimR gave. Since "just" was often used to say things like:

That dress is just gorgeous!

Wasn't that dessert just delightful?

...we can see that the the word "just" in these contexts is being used as an adverb meaning "simply", "really" (as Edwin mentions), and/or "completely". Contemporary native speakers, being familiar with this adverbial usage of "just", would understand "just" at the end of the a question to imply similar meaning. For example, going back to the two recent sentences, they could be phrased like so:

That dress is gorgeous, isn't it just?

That dessert was delightful, wasn't it just?

Other examples of similarly used question tags (mentioned in the comments to your question by Yosef and Lee) are really, actually, and though. These tags do not alter the meaning of the question, the just emphasize the meaning in the particular way we have been discussing.

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  • "implied and to be inferred": I think the word you're looking for is ellipsis.
    – Laurel
    Commented Aug 29, 2023 at 16:38
  • Excellent, @Laurel! I hadn't heard ellipsis used in that manner before... I'll update my answer. 🙌🏽
    – LHM
    Commented Aug 29, 2023 at 16:41
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This isn't a complete answer, but it's too much to be a comment.

Concurring with the answers that say "just" is for emphasis, this is also a kind of elliptical sentence inversion, that makes it a bit complicated grammatically; however, it is a real construction that is natural in some English dialects, and understandable to many others.

Just for the record, here is a use "in the wild", supposedly representing a London dialect where "just" would be pronounced "jist", in Frances Hodgson Burnett's "A Little Princess", Ch. 13. This quote has several order combinations, including the specific version that you asked about:

Sara clutched her little fourpenny piece and hesitated for a few seconds. Then she spoke to her.

“Are you hungry?” she asked.

The child shuffled herself and her rags a little more.

“Ain’t I jist?” she said in a hoarse voice. “Jist ain’t I?”

“Haven’t you had any dinner?” said Sara.

“No dinner,” more hoarsely still and with more shuffling. “Nor yet no bre’fast—nor yet no supper. No nothin’.

“Since when?” asked Sara.

“Dunno. Never got nothin’ today—nowhere. I’ve axed an’ axed.”

Sara asks: Are you [in a state of hunger]?"

The child responds with: "Am I not just [in the state you mentioned]?", rhetorically, since the obvious answer is "Yes, you are just what I asked about".

A little later, the shop-keeper asks the girl in the street about Sara, and recieves the following replies:

“Axed me if I was ‘ungry,” replied the hoarse voice.

“What did you say?”

“Said I was jist.”

“And then she came in and got the buns, and gave them to you, did she?”

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