Customer:I'll take this green sweater, I like the color on me, don't you?

Shop assistant:I think it looks terrific on you.

From what I have been taught, I would say "I like the color on me, don't I?"
Why does the Customer change I to you? Is that correct? If so, what's the difference in meaning?

  • You're getting confused between tag questions (which are usually rhetorical, and either don't expect any answer at all, or strongly push for a "confirmatory" response), and "normal" questions. Thus You do love me, don't you?, It's hot, isn't it?, and You're not the boss of me, are you? are tag question. But in your example the "tag" form would be don't I? (which in this exact context would be a very colloquial / informal and perhaps aggressive usage). If you genuinely expect an answer it would be better to simply ask a natural question: What do you think?. Jul 15, 2018 at 12:30
  • @FumbleFingers So don't you? in this situation is the abbreviation of a normal question(What do you think?) but not a tag question?
    – preachers
    Jul 15, 2018 at 12:43
  • ...to expand on that "perhaps aggressive" point, ask yourself why you might add a tag question to a statement in the first place. In my examples, the "expected" answers (the answers the speaker assumes would be given, though he might not really care whether he gets a reply or not) are all "confirmatory" (Yes, I love you. Yes, it's hot, No, I'm not your boss). In a way, the speaker is "challenging, daring" the other person to disagree (but he assumes he's right, so he doesn't really expect any disagreement). Your context simply isn't suitable for a tag question. Jul 15, 2018 at 12:43
  • @FumbleFingers I've learned that a tag question could either imply a confirmation or a question depending on its intonation. If it's don't I with a up intonation, it would mean a question but not except a confirmation. Is it right or not?
    – preachers
    Jul 15, 2018 at 12:51
  • To repeat my primary point - your context is not suitable for a tag question. The defining characteristic of a tag question is that it "demands" a response confirming the preceding assertion. I assume your example customer wouldn't be "daring" the assistant to take issue with the fact that she (the customer) thinks the colour suits her, so don't I? is inappropriate. But don't you? isn't a tag question here, because it doesn't directly convert a preceding assertion (it asks what the assistant thinks, whereas the preceding assertion is about what the speaker thinks). Jul 15, 2018 at 13:05

1 Answer 1


The customer is actually asking the shop assistant for their opinion, not just asking a rhetorical question.

In other words:

I'll take this green sweater. I like the color on me. Do you like the color on me too?


I'll take this green sweater. I like the color on me. What do you think?

In this case, asking somebody else I like the color on me, don't I? wouldn't make sense. It's not an obvious enough situation for the question to be rhetorical, and a questioner doesn't normally ask somebody else about the questioner's own feelings.

If it had been a rhetorical question, they would have stated something obvious and then asked a question only to emphasize the situation rather than to actually look for an answer.

For example, after eating three servings of a meal:

It seems I was hungry, doesn't it?

Or to somebody who's finished watching a particular movie for the tenth time:

You really like that movie, don't you?

Because the answer is self-evident, the questioner isn't actually expecting one.

Now, if the shopper came in every day for weeks and always bought a green sweater, then a rhetorical I like the color on me, don't I? could be appropriate. But there is no context for that in the simple sentence given.

  • 2
    I like your nicely-contrived final example! The best I could come up with was something along the lines of Why do you drink so much? - I just like being drunk, don't I?, which almost unavoidably conveys a note of aggressive dismissal. But yours is more likely just a whimsical lighthearted remark. Jul 15, 2018 at 13:15
  • Your answer is great! What I'm confused is about this video .
    – preachers
    Jul 15, 2018 at 13:25
  • @preachers That video is correct, and it's true that such "negative" questions normally do repeat the subject. But it's not a rule that they have to. There isn't even a rule that you have to ask them in that form: (1) We're going to the beach, aren't we?; (2) We should go to the beach, don't you think?; (3) Aren't we going to the beach?; or (4) Why aren't we going to the beach? (Note: None of those questions are rhetorical; they expect an answer.) Jul 15, 2018 at 13:32
  • @preachers: In English, real questions are uttered with a "rising intonation". That's to say, when don't you is louder and rising/higher pitched in a context such as You like cake, don't you? it's actually a real question - not a "rhetorical" tag question, as it would be if don't were less "emphatic". I think the explanation in your Youtube link is quite straightforward. Don't you? Jul 15, 2018 at 13:38
  • 1
    We seem to be having difficulty communicating here. As Jason points out, a questioner doesn't normally ask somebody else about the questioner's own feelings - and I find it hard to believe that's peculiar to Anglophones. So as a "real" question (with rising intonation, not a "rhetorical tag question"), I like the color on me, don't I? barely makes sense. Why would a shopper ask a sales assistant what they themself (the shopper) think? Maybe you don't have to repeat the question in a tag, but you can't arbitrarily change it to a totally different question. Jul 15, 2018 at 13:58

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