Tag question for 'there to be'

Discussion in 'English Only' started by Marcos-PS, Apr 1, 2010.

  1. Marcos-PS

    Marcos-PS Senior Member

    São Paulo - Brazil
    Portuguese - Brazil
    Hello everybody,

    Frequently we have the chance to use tag questions in daily conversations, or if not, at least the chance to learn what it is about through grammar books. Nevertheless, out of the blue, I've remembered that never have I seen or heard tags questions for the verb there to be. Let us say:

    There is a mistake, isn't there?
    There is not any cars, there is?


    Are these things possible or just an absurd? Is there any tag question for the verb there to be at all?

    Thanks in advance!
     
  2. Hermione Golightly

    Hermione Golightly Senior Member

    SW London
    British English
    Hi Marcos

    It's totally possible and very common to make tags from 'there is(not) and 'there are (not)' in the same way as tags are made using the verb to be whatever the subject or the tense.

    Your first example is correct. Turning it around, it would become
    'There isn't a mistake, is there?' ( Negative main clause with positive tag)
    Your second example has two mistakes.
    First, is 'cars' singular or plural ?
    Ask yourself if the verb agrees in number.
    Second, in the tag the word order is wrong, the subject and verb need to be reversed as you did in your first sentence.

    Have another go at it, then try turning it around, making the main clause positive + a negative tag, as we did with the first example

    :)

    Hermione
     
  3. Rusak963

    Rusak963 Senior Member

    Poland
    Polish
    Hi,

    It sounds perfectly normal to me. I wouldn't say tags questions. I'd rather say question tags. The second sentence you posted contains an error. It should be:

    There are not any cars, are there?

    What is more, in a dialect of English called Ebonics you can say:

    There is not any cars, is there?. " There is" goes with singular forms, but in BVE (Black Vernacular English, also called Ebonics, it is correct.

    Also, I would advise to wait for a reply from a native, just to be sure.
     
    Last edited: Apr 1, 2010
  4. Marcos-PS

    Marcos-PS Senior Member

    São Paulo - Brazil
    Portuguese - Brazil
    Oh yes, sorry for that, I roughly wrote my sentence, I was in a hurry and wrote it incorrectly, the second one.

    There are not any cars, are there?

    I think this should be the right way to put it.

    But getting down to the point, it seems that it is perfectly fine to use tag questions for there to be. This was my original question, it seems to be resolved so.

    But now, whether saying tag question or question tag, I confess, I've already seen both, thus I end up choosing the one that comes to mind first. Any comments on this to wrap up?

    Thank you so far Mister English :), and the Polish too :thumbsup:!
     
    Last edited: Apr 1, 2010
  5. Rusak963

    Rusak963 Senior Member

    Poland
    Polish
    I would use question tag because it sounds better, although both versions are correct.
     
  6. Thomas Tompion Senior Member

    Southwest France
    English - England
    I think you go on to correct yourself, Rusak, but it should be, of course:

    There are not any cars, are there?
    There is not any milk, is there?
     
  7. Rusak963

    Rusak963 Senior Member

    Poland
    Polish
    It is incorrect in BrE but in BVE, also called Ebonics, it is fine, as I've said before.
     
  8. Thomas Tompion Senior Member

    Southwest France
    English - England
    Are we teaching Ebonics here now?

    My point is that there are many dialects in which all sorts of bad grammar is 'fine', but to say, as you do, that a certain dialect form is correct ("it should be") is misleading, which is why I corrected you.
     
  9. Rusak963

    Rusak963 Senior Member

    Poland
    Polish
    Oh, I see your point. I agree that it can be misleading. I shall rephrase it.
    We aren't talking about Ebonics but it's worth pointing out. Don't you think?
     
  10. Thomas Tompion Senior Member

    Southwest France
    English - England
    I'm afraid I don't, Rusak. That's why I made a fuss. There are people learning, or trying to, from these threads, and if we post dialect variations, saying they are correct, we make life very hard for them.

    If you want to discuss dialect variations, that seems to me a matter for another thread. This one seems to me to be about question tags, or tag questions - I'm not fussed about what we call them, in sentences with main verbs there is or there are.

    Incidentally, I've never heard talk of a verb there to be, mentioned by Marcos.
     
  11. Hermione Golightly

    Hermione Golightly Senior Member

    SW London
    British English
    I had been going to ask what BVE meant. Does it stand for Black Variant English, or what?

    I'd say it's quite common to say 'there is' instead of 'there are' as a feature of British English regional variants. It is also heard quite often when people are speaking extemporaneously and developing what they want to say and how best to say it as they go along.

    It might be 'fine' in Ebonics, I wouldn't know, and all variations interest me in a theoretical way. I don't imagine this info is much practical use to learners though.

    Hermione
     
  12. Thomas Tompion Senior Member

    Southwest France
    English - England
    There's an interesting thread on abusive examples of there is here.
     
  13. If we were to look through transcripts of BBC broadcasts, we'd also find Tony Blair who said "there is" instead of "there are". ;)
     
  14. panjandrum

    panjandrum PongoMod

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    A gentle mod reminder that the thread topic is tag questions (or question tags), not BVE (Black Vernacular English) or there is with plurals.
     
  15. Rusak963

    Rusak963 Senior Member

    Poland
    Polish
    I respect your opinion but, quite the contrary, I think it makes their life easier in the way that they don't feel surprised when they meet a person who uses such a structure.
    I agree that this is a matter for another thread so let us end this discussion here. We can agree to disagree ;) Feel free to write to me if you want to discuss it further.

    By the way, BVE stands for Black Vernacular English Hermione :)
     
  16. Thomas Tompion Senior Member

    Southwest France
    English - England
    It's a point of view. What got me going was your it should be, with its suggestion that what you were recommending was correct English. Had you presented it as deviant from the beginning, I probably wouldn't have reacted at all.

    The fact is that sentences with there is and there are follow all the normal rules of tag questions - invert the order, and change from affirmative to negative and vice versa, thus:

    There is a spider in this soup, isn't there?
    There are no windows in the sitting-room, are there?

    There should be a comma here, shouldn't there?
    There have never been problems about this, have there?

    et cetera.
     

Share This Page