I saw this example in Long Man dictionary:

‘And he’ll believe you, will he?’ Maria taunted.

Why here the rule of tag question is not cared for? Shouldn't it be:

He won't believe you, will he?


He will believe you, won't he?

  • 2
    You append a "tag question" to a statement when you're expecting confirmation. In the cited context, Maria obviously doesn't think "he" will believe whoever she's talking to, so it's not a tag question anyway. The fact that she taunted with those words is evidence that she really doesn't expect the addressee to reply "Of course he'll believe me! - she'd more likely expect a reply like "No, I don't suppose he will". Commented Jan 24, 2022 at 18:18

2 Answers 2


True tag questions are used to check understanding:

That's a dog, isn't it?

The speaker expresses an opinion, and then asks the question, negated.

This implies that the speaker believes it is a dog.

But sometimes the speaker will use irony.

What!? That's a dog?

(Irony is very hard to indicate in text!) The meaning here is "I don't think that's a dog."

You would tag this with a positive tag

What!? That's a dog, is it? Really?

Something similar is indicated here. The speaker says "He'll believe you" ironically, meaning "I don't think He'll believe you". The irony is confirmed by the tag question being positive.

He'll believe you, won't he? "I think and hope that he will believe you."

He'll believe you, will he? "I don't think that he'll believe you."

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    I'm not big on terminological exactitude, but isn't a tag question by definition the "opposite" of the preceding assertion? That's to say, it always either Positive assertion + Negating tag or Negating assertion + Positive tag. I'm not sure Negating + Negating normally occurs anyway, but it seems to me that Positive + Positive normally expresses "disbelief", rather than seeking confirmation. Commented Jan 24, 2022 at 18:24
  • 1
    The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language simply says 'A tag is a short interrogative which may be negative of positive' and refers to 'negative polarity tags' (what you call 'opposite') and 'positive polarity tags'. Negative polarity is probably the default (CGEL 'much the more frequent'), but tags are not 'by definition' the opposite.
    – Sydney
    Commented Jan 25, 2022 at 20:57

Rather than focusing on the rules, in my opinion it depends on the intended meaning of the phrase. "He'll believe you" is a positive statement, and the tag "will he" queries it. On the other hand, "He won't believe you" is a negative statement and the tag "will he"? seeks to reinforce it rather than querying.

There are exceptions to almost every rule.

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