1

I find myself standing in front of my wardrobe, staring for the hundredth time at a rack of pretty clothes, the perfect wardrobe for the manager of a small but cutting-edge art gallery. Nothing in it says “nanny.” God, even the word makes me want to gag. I put on jeans and a T-shirt, scrape my hair back. I don’t even bother putting on any makeup. There’s no point, is there, prettying myself up to spend all day with a baby?

Could you tell me what is the exact meaning of the phrase "is there" which is inserted into the last sentence in the extract above?

  • It's just an "embedded" tag question. You could parse the example as a contracted form of There’s no point, is there? [I mean, there's no point in] prettying myself up... OR you could assume the tag question has simply been moved from the end of the statement/question to a point nearer the front. – FumbleFingers Mar 3 '16 at 21:23
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If you take out "is there", the sentence becomes:

"There's no point prettying myself up to spend all day with a baby."

As you can see, this turns into a statement instead of a question. You could look at the current sentence like this:

"There’s no point (is there?) prettying myself up to spend all day with a baby."

The "is there" seems to be more of a challenge to the reader than a genuine search for an answer.

The speaker is reaffirming her choice to not wear any fancy clothes makeup because all she is doing is spending the day with just a baby.

  • Thanks for your answer. So something similar to the question tag? I thought that they must be at the end of the sentence. – bart-leby Mar 3 '16 at 19:11
  • It is definitely more common to hear and see something like this at the end of a sentence, you're right. For example, it would be perfectly acceptable to say, "There's no point prettying myself up to spend all day with a baby, is there?" Sometimes you'll hear the question asked in the middle of a sentence as an afterthought if the author/speaker wants to clarify what they mean in anticipation of the listener/reader not understanding the question. For example, "You're coming, right, to the party?" – cccg03 Mar 3 '16 at 19:20
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The engagement of the listener with this sort of rhetorical question is quite common; the longer the adjunct clause, the more likely the question will be placed not at the end of the sentence but after the main clause:

It tastes pretty good, doesn't it, when you add just a little lime to the drink in order to balance out the sweetness without making it too tart?

It tastes pretty good when you add just a little lime to the drink, in order to balance out the sweetness without making it too tart, doesn't it?

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