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We always use a positive tag question after a negative sentence:

You shouldn't take this medicine, should you?

We use a negative tag question after a positive sentence:

She must leave early, mustn't she?

But when there is a negating prefix on the adjective (impatient vs. patient) after the verb "to be", then the sentence is negative in meaning. Does this mean the tag should be positive?

Which is correct, A or B?

A: I am impatient, am I?

B: I am impatient, aren't I?

A: The class was dismissed, was it?

B: The class was dismissed, wasn't it?

  • What do you call a prefix in your question? You can find how to build a "tag question" in lots of places on the web: here or here or here and lots and lots more. "The class was dismissed,wasn't it?" and "I am impatient,aren't I?" are the correct sentences. What you say in your first paragraph is correct. – Laure Mar 5 '14 at 19:20
  • @Laure by prefix I think it's meant im or dis, as in impatient or dismissed. – Bob Stein Mar 5 '14 at 19:50
  • Thanks Laure,I know the basic structure.But can you give me a cogent explanations for your answer? – kathrine Mar 5 '14 at 19:51
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    I gave you three links that explains it all. The fact you use "impatient" or "patient", or whatever adjective does not change anything. The whole structure lies on a verb/auxiliary - positive/negative relationship. – Laure Mar 5 '14 at 19:55
  • @BobStein-VisiBone. Well, that needed a lot of guessing !Well done. – Laure Mar 5 '14 at 19:57
2

The negative prefix on the adjective does not matter, the tag question is determined solely by whether the verb is negative or positive. The correct usage would be "I am impatient, aren't I?" There are occasions for when you could use a positive-positive tag, but it's not really a question (the "up" inflection isn't there). It's used to confirm another person's statement often expressing mocking, doubt, wonder, anger, etc.

Example

Person A: I was sick yesterday and spent the entire day in bed.

Person B: You were sick, were you? Then how come I saw you jogging in the park?

Person A: My wife is going to have a baby.

Person B: She is, is she? Congratulations!

1

Both variations are possible but they arise in different contexts and have different meanings.

I am impatient, am I?

Someone has accused the speaker of being impatient. For example in the kitchen, ruining the roux sauce by adding the milk too quickly. The speaker is irritated at the accusation, and retorts in a sarcastic tone; you can almost hear the next utterance: "I'll show you what impatience is!" and stomping off in a sulk.

I am impatient, aren't I?

This is more likely said with a self-deprecating smile, or said ironically. For example, a husband waiting for his wife to get ready to leave, going out to start the car while she's still putting on her make-up (stereotype alert!). He says to her as she finally gets in the car...

  • I suppose OP uses "tag question" in the sense used in ESL books, i.e. a sentence that is used to confirm or check information or ask for agreement. That does not include your first example, which would have a different punctuation anyway. – Laure Mar 5 '14 at 19:42
  • @Laure I have to disagree on both counts. My first example does seek confirmation (albeit in a slightly aggressive/rhetorical way), and I see nothing untoward with my punctuation. – toandfro Mar 5 '14 at 20:13
  • Then you probably missed out a word and meant "I am impatient, am I *not? if not it is not a "tag question" as such. – Laure Mar 6 '14 at 5:51
  • Similarly, I'd say The class was dismissed, wasn't it? when I suspected the class was dismissed. It's not really a question per se, I'm just summarizing my conclusion. The only answer I would expect is, "Yes, it was." As for, The class was dismissed, was it?, I read that with a heavy emphasis on the word dismissed, and an accusatory tone overall. It sounds like something an attorney would say in a courtroom when he's about to make an "Aha!" point. – J.R. Mar 6 '14 at 9:47
  • @Laure No, I wrote what I intended and it remains a tag question despite your insistence otherwise. See "balanced vs unbalanced" tags in the wiki entry at en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tag_question – toandfro Mar 6 '14 at 21:10
-1

No, that is a hypercorrection. You only follow "is/is not", do not form a tag question based on negative prefix.

Correct: I am impatient, am I not?

Correct: I am not patient, am I?

  • 1
    "Aren't I?" but "am I?" – Laure Mar 5 '14 at 19:28

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