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It is you who did this, ______?

What should be the correct question tag?

a) isn't it

b) didn't you

I know it's a silly question. I need your opinion because a person is insisting that it is "didn't you", with which I disagree!

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  • Here, the tag seeks confirmation of who did this, so it should be based on the "be" clause (i.e. main clause), not the subordinate "did" clause, meaning that a) is correct. Compare this with, for example, "I think it's legal, isn't it?, where the tag is correctly based on the subordinate clause.
    – BillJ
    Oct 16, 2021 at 9:08
  • I need another opinion. It is related but slightly different. Can an optative sentence have tag questions? Oct 16, 2021 at 9:25
  • May God help you, mayn't he? It is correct to use question tag this way? Oct 16, 2021 at 9:26
  • It [the person who did this] is you, isn't it? The dummy pronoun it is the subject. Oct 16, 2021 at 11:23

1 Answer 1

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Both seem possible as ways of confirming agreement with a statement, though the simplest and surely correct choice would be "isn't it?"

The reason that both seem possible is that the odd phrasing of the sentence "It is you who did this", which has the same meaning as "You did this" (with a different nuance of emphasis).

Here, the tag seeks confirmation of who did this, so it should be based on the "be" clause (i.e. main clause), not the subordinate "did" clause, meaning that a) is correct. Compare this with, for example, "I think it's legal, isn't it?, where the tag is correctly based on the subordinate clause.

It is possible for a tag to be attached to a relative clause but only of the non-defining declarative type, as in "I didn't get much response from Ed, who seemed rather out of sorts, didn't he?" (BillJ)

I'm not sure that a tag question feels very natural here. The phrasing "It is you who..." seems to make a strong assertion of a fact. But the tag question asks for confirmation. It feels odd to strongly assert something, but then ask for confirmation.

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  • You did this and It is you who did this are necessarily not the same. Their grammar and meaning differ. The it-cleft sentence has it as its subject and a relative clause attached to it. The relatives clause should not be the basic for forming question tag. Oct 16, 2021 at 9:09
  • @ModernEnglish If you already know the answer, why ask the question in the first place?
    – BillJ
    Oct 16, 2021 at 9:13
  • I know this but I need your opinion. Your opinion makes me stronger. Oct 16, 2021 at 9:16
  • It is possible for a tag to be attached to a relative clause but only of the non-defining declarative type, as in "I didn't get much response from Ed, who seemed rather out of sorts, didn't he?"
    – BillJ
    Oct 16, 2021 at 9:26
  • Great! It's new to me. Oct 16, 2021 at 9:37

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