Question Tags in English

How do you pronounce person B’s part in this conversation?

A: Hello. I’m here for a meeting with Mr Banks.
B: Oh, you’re David Jones, aren’t you.
A: Yes, that’s right.

It’s a trick question! There are two possible ways to pronounce the “aren’t you” at the end.

You can either make your voice go up on the “aren’t you”, or make your voice go down on the “aren’t you”.

But the meaning of the sentence changes.

If your voice goes up, it’s a genuine question. You don’t know if the person is David Jones or not, so you want the person to say either yes or no.

But if your voice goes down, it’s not a real question. You’re pretty sure that the person is David Jones, and you want the other person to agree with you.

The biggest problem with question tags is the pronunciation. It can be very difficult to make your voice go up or go down at the end of the question without getting out of breath. The trick is to decide which word to stress.

If you stress the last word, your voice automatically goes up, and it’s a genuine question.
“Oh, you’re David Jones, aren’t you.”

If you stress the auxiliary “aren’t”, then your voice automatically falls, and it’s a request for clarification / agreement.
Oh, you’re David Jones, aren’t you.

Listen to the whole conversation.


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