I'm having a difficult time dealing with the word 'without' in the sentence below:

He passed the exam without your help, ... he?

Please help me clarify which will be the best fit in this context - 'did' or 'didn't'? (as I notice that 'without' has negative meaning).

  • 1
    'without' doesn't have a grammatical negative meaning
    – yewgeniy
    Sep 29 at 13:08
  • Are you asking whether he did, or saying that he did and seeking confirmation? Sep 29 at 13:17
  • 1
    It should be: He passed the exam without your help, didn't he? Compare: You didn't help him pass the exam, did you?
    – nschneid
    Sep 29 at 13:28
  • 3
    @nschneid - Yes, if the speaker is saying that they believe he did and seeking confirmation. "[So} he passed the exam without your help, did he?" would be asking the question in mild surprise or incredulity. Sep 29 at 14:07
  • 2
    You can use either, read more here: dictionary.cambridge.org/us/grammar/british-grammar/tags
    – Nameless
    Sep 29 at 14:32

I am new to this but this is what I think:

If I expand the question, it'd be: He DID pass the exam without your help, _______ he? Moreover, without your help this is not a verb which means that it cannot be used, (IDK I am just a Primary 6 pupil) hence, it is didn't he. In addition, grammatically, you cannot add DID before without your help. Hence, it grammatically does not make sense if you put 'did he'. Without your help is a piece of additional information so yeah...


If without is an adverb, I (a native speaker) would treat it as giving the sentence a negative meaning. For example, I would use did he in the sentence:

He made do without, did he?

I am not at all sure that other native speakers would agree with me.

But if without is a preposition, it doesn't make a sentence negative. So for your question, the tag is:

He passed the exam without your help, didn't he?

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