Tag question: She told me nothing, <did she, didn't she>?

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Mack&Mack

Senior Member
Korea & Korean
Hello,

Is the following correct?

She told me nothing, didn't she?

What about She told me nothing, did she?



Thank you in advance.
 
  • Cagey

    post mod (English Only / Latin)
    English - US
    Hello,

    Is the following correct?

    1) She told me nothing, didn't she?

    2) What about She told me nothing, did she?

    Thank you in advance.
    Yes, as GWB says, they both are correct, but function differently.

    #1 is what I would say if I wanted someone to agree that she had told me nothing.

    #2 is what I would say if someone had just told me that she told me nothing, but I thought that person was wrong. (That is, if I thought she had told me something worth knowing.) It has a slightly defiant tone.
     

    Joelline

    Senior Member
    American English
    I thought that the general rule of thumb was that when the sentence is affirmative, the tag is negative and when the sentence is negative, the tag is affirmative:
    He didn't go, did he?
    He did go, didn't he?

    Therefore, in this case, your choice would be between these two:
    She told me nothing, didn't she? OR
    She didn't tell me anything, did she?

    If I'm wrong on this one, please give a source (on the web or in a book) so I can update my thinking on this topic!
     

    Cagey

    post mod (English Only / Latin)
    English - US
    I thought that the general rule of thumb was that when the sentence is affirmative, the tag is negative and when the sentence is negative, the tag is affirmative:
    He didn't go, did he?
    He did go, didn't he?

    Therefore, in this case, your choice would be between these two:
    She told me nothing, didn't she? OR
    She didn't tell me anything, did she?

    If I'm wrong on this one, please give a source (on the web or in a book) so I can update my thinking on this topic!
    At the bottom of this BBC website page on tag questions, there is a section on "tag questions - special features". Under "positive statement - positive tag" they say:

    "We sometimes use a positive tag with a positive statement when we want to express surprise or particular interest."​

    They provide examples.

    In my opinion, the sentence in question is in this category.
     

    Joelline

    Senior Member
    American English
    Thanks, Cagey! The website is indeed enlightening, but I actually found your own explanation for #2 to be a fine example in itself. I can almost see the defiantly smug look on the speaker's face as he flaunts his new-found knowledge! I agree also that the examples on the BBC page do illustrate the specific example under discussion here. I can sleep well tonight, knowing that I've once again learned something from the brillliant forer@s here at WR!
     
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