Which of the two following examples has the correct question tag?

a) They say she speaks Russian, don't they?


b) They say she speaks Russian, doesn't she?

  • 2
    Only a) is correct. A tag seeks confirmation of what is said in the main clause. Here it is asking for confirmation of what they say, not whether she speaks Russian. – BillJ Jan 12 '17 at 20:01
  • @BillJ: I'm not convinced. I'd say it's a matter of semantics, in that in (a) the speaker appends a question tag inviting confirmation that what they say ("She speaks Russian") is true, but in (b) he's simply reporting what they said inclusive of question tag ("She speaks Russian, doesn't she?"). It just that there are probably more contexts where (a) would apply than (b). – FumbleFingers Jan 12 '17 at 20:24
  • But as written, I think the second example should be "They say she speaks Russian. Doesn't she?" to avoid ambiguity. – user3169 Jan 12 '17 at 21:07

The question tag questions the assertion. So you must identify the assertion. It is identified below in bold:

She speaks Russian, doesn't she?

They say she speaks Russian, don't they?

It is simple, isn't it?
They say it is simple, _____________?

They're both correct, but the underlying question is different.

They say he writes poetry, don't they?

Here the question iss me asking whether they really say this.

They say, "He writes poetry, doesn't he?"

I've added the quotes to clarify. Now they are asking whether he writes poetry.

  • No problems with one sentence tag, the doubt was related to two clause tags – lalynacar. Jan 12 '17 at 19:24

Whenever you have a complex sentence with a subordinate clause, you should consider the main clause in order to make a tag question:

They say(that) she speaks Russian,don't they?

  • even more understandable – lalynacar. Jan 12 '17 at 19:39

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