Unit 11.1

Nobody, Nothing and Somebody (Indefinite Pronouns) in Question Tags

Syntax

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Introduction

A question tag is a short question at the end of a sentence that we use to check information, ask for confirmation or agreement. {See Question Tags, A2 level}

We use question tags in different ways, depending on the kind of indefinite pronoun we use. {See Indefinite Pronouns, B1 level}

Form

  • We use nothing, something and everything with it when we make a question tag:
    Nothing + clause, + [question tag with it] ?
    Something/Everything + clause, + [question tag with negative auxiliary and with it] ?
  • We use nobody, somebody and everybody with they when we make a question tag:
    Nobody + clause, + [question tag with they] ?
    Somebody/Everybody + clause, + [question tag with negative auxiliary and with they] ?

Example

  • Nothing is related to security, is it?
  • Something has been interpreted wrongly,  hasn’t it?
  • Everything is philosophic, isn’t it?
  • Nobody came from the army, did they?
  • Somebody has come to that conclusion, haven’t they?
  • Everybody attacked each other, didn’t they?

Use

We use question tags in different ways, depending on the kind of indefinite pronoun we use.

  • When we use nothing and nobody, the sentence is positive, but the meaning of the statement is negative. So we need to use positive question tags;
  • When we use everything, everybody, something and somebody, the sentence is positive, so we need to use negative question tags.

NOTE: In question tags we raise our voice when we don’t know the answer; while we use  falling intonation when we already know it.

Summary

Indefinite pronouns in a sentence, make us use question tags in different ways. With pronouns with negative meaning, we need to use positive question tags. With pronouns with positive meaning, we need to use negative question tags. 

Negative pronouns are: nothing and nobody.

Positive pronouns are: everythingeverybodysomething and somebody

When we use nothing or everything  in a sentence, the question tag should be it. The structure of the sentence is:

  • We start with nothing followed by a clause and the question tag with it;
  • We start with something or everything followed by a clause and the question tag with negative auxiliary and with it.

When we use nobody, somebody and everybody in a sentence, the question tag should be theyThe structure of the sentence is:

  • We start with nobody followed by a clause and the question tag with they;
  • We start with somebody or everybody followed by a clause and the question tag with negative auxiliary and with they.

All the question tags end in a question mark.

For example:
— Nothing is right, is it?” = Negative pronoun nothing with positive question tag with it.
— Somebody arrived late in class today, didn’t they? = Positive pronoun somebody with negative question tag with they.

NOTE: In question tags we raise our voice when we don’t know the answer; while we use  falling intonation when we already know it.

Let’s revise this content within the {Form} section. Take a look at the {Example} section that shows its use within a context.

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