Friday, November 4, 2011

QUESTION TAGS FOR IMPERATIVES:

Gamil Wahba from Egypt
writes:
Sometimes we say: Open the
door, will you? Sometimes
we say: Open the door,
won't you? Are both correct?
Roger Woodham replies:
more questions
question tags with the
imperative
Yes, both are correct and
there is very little difference
in meaning between the two.
There is perhaps a slight
suggestion that you might be
expecting the answer to be
no , if you use the ...won 't
you? question tag.
By adding the tag to the
imperative, open the door ,
you are softening the
instruction and turning it into
a request . Without it, it
would sound very much like a
command, so the tag has a
similar effect to the addition
of please.
…will you/won't you?
The following examples are
all variations on the basic …
will you/won't you? theme
and all show roughly the
same degree of politeness.
But note that the context of
use is now the operating
theatre and here the …won't
you? tag would be
inappropriate as the surgeon
would never expect the
answer to be no:
Hand me the scalpel,
please.
Hand me the scalpel, will
you please?
Hand me the scalpel,
would you ?
Hand me the scalpel,
could you please ?
Could you hand me the
scalpel?
You can, of course, use …
would you? and …could you?
with your example, Gamil, in
addition to …will you? and …
won't you?, but note that
with the imperative we
cannot use …wouldn't you?
or …couldn't you?.
Note in the following
example, the first suggestion
is much more tentative and
less confident than the
second:
Come back to my place
for a coffee, won't you? ~
No, I'm sorry, I can't. I've
got such an early start
tomorrow that I have to
go to bed now.
Let's go back to my place
for coffee! ~ What a nice
idea. A coffee and a
brandy would round off
that delicious meal nicely.
negative with affirmative
and affirmative with
negative
Leaving aside imperative
structures, the normal rule
that operates with tag
questions is that you add a
negative tag to a positive
statement and a positive
tag to a negative
statement :
You would go to see Phil
in America if I gave you
the money, wouldn't you ?
You couldn't help me sort
out these overtime
schedules, could you?
The normal expectation when
you add a negative tag to a
positive statement is that
the answer will be yes .
Similarly, when you add a
positive tag to a negative
statement , you expect the
answer to be no :
They're such a lively
bunch, aren't they? ~
Yes, they are . They've
always got lots of energy.
You don't remember
meeting my uncle, do
you? ~ No, I'm sorry. I
don't .
You haven't fed the
goldfish, have you? ~ No,
I haven't . You do it.
Excessive speed was the
cause of the accident,
don't you agree? ~ Yes, I
do .
However, expectations are
not always fulfilled:
You haven't fed the
goldfish, have you? ~ Well,
actually, I have. I fed them
half an hour ago.
Excessive speed was the
cause of the accident,
don't you agree? ~ Well, I
'm not absolutely sure that
I agree with you. He was
driving fast, but not faster
than the speed limit
allows.
same way question tags
Here we are making a
positive statement to make
a guess and then adding the
tag to ask if our assumption
is correct. Study the following:
This is the final match of
the season, is it ? ~ Yes,
that's right.
So you can run a mile in
four minutes, can you ?
She's been training to be
an anaesthetist, has she?
So she's going to marry
him, is she?
He was unfaithful
straightaway, was he ?
So you think she'll sue for
divorce, do you?
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