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Positive statement - negative tag - positive answer

You knew that before, didn’t you? - Yes, I did.

Negative statement - positive tag - negative answer

You didn’t know that before, did you? - No, I didn’t.


The answer, however, may be unexpected, as in: You didn’t know that before, did you? - But I did.

The falling tone of the tag is also possible. It makes the whole sentence sound like a statement. The speaker actually knows the answer and can do without it.

There is one more sentence pattern with a tag question which is less frequently used.

Positive statement - positive tag

You knew about it before, did you?

Negative statement - negative tag

You didn’t know about it before, didn’t you?


This sentence pattern is used when the speaker comes to a conclusion concerning some event. Such sentences may begin with the conjunction so.

So you knew about it before, did you?


A sentence pattern with a tag question may serve as a response to the previous remark. Thus it forms a comment having some emotional attitude, such as surprise, anger, sarcasm.


They even put the car on the ship for you.

- They do, do they? Who takes it off again?


He brought these flowers, too. - He did, did he? - Yes.


Alternative questions

§ 11. An alternative question implies a choice between two or more alternative answers. Like a “yes-no” question, it opens with an operator, but the suggestion of choice expressed by the disjunctive conjunction or makes the “yes-no” answer impossible. The conjunction or links either two homogeneous parts of the sentence or two coordinate clauses. The part of the question before the conjunction is characterized by a rising tone, the part after the conjunction has a falling tone.


Will you go to the opera or to the concert to-night?


An alternative question may sometimes resemble a pronominal question beginning with a question word:


Which do you prefer, tea or coffee?

Where shall we go, to the cinema or to the football match?


Actually such structures fall into two parts, the first forms a pronominal question, the second a condensed alternative question.


Would you prefer tea or coffee?

Shall we go to the cinema or to the football match?


Sometimes the alternative contains only a negation:


Will they ever stop arguing or not?

Suggestive questions

§ 12. Suggestive questions, also called declarative questions, form a peculiar kind of " yes-no" questions. They keep the word order of statements but serve as questions owing to the rising tone in speaking and a question mark in writing, as in:

You really want to go now, to-night?

- Yes, nothing could make me stay.

By their communicative function suggestive questions resemble sentences with tag questions; they are asked for the sake of confirmation. The speaker is all but sure what the answer will be (positive or negative), and by asking the question expects confirmation on the part of the ad­dressee.


You are familiar with the town?

- I spent winter here many years ago.

You still don’t believe me, Aunt Nora?

- No, I don't.


The answer is sometimes unexpected.


A child like you talking of “we women”! What next? You’re not in earnest?

- Yes, I am.


Unlike ordinary “yes-no” questions, suggestive questions may con­tain independent elements, such as interjections, modal words or phrases, the conjunction so, parenthetical clauses, etc., as in:


You are joking, eh?

Surely you are not offended?

So you knew about, it before?


Suggestive questions are frequently used as question responses with various kinds of emotional colouring, most often that of surprise or incredulity.


He said you were a very good ski-teacher.

- He said that?

You sound surprised.


Because of their main communicative function, suggestive questions are very useful as leading questions to get exact information, as seen in the following passage:

You mean to say he at no time asked you the actual purpose of your visit?

- Not at that interview.

- And it did not occur to you to force this information on him?

- Indeed it did...

Pronominal questions

§13. Pronominal questions open with an interrogative pronoun or a pronominal adverb, the function of which is to get more detailed and exact information about some event or phenomenon known to the speaker and listener.

The interrogative pronouns and adverbs which function as question words are as follows: what, which, who, whom, whose, where, when, why, how and the archaic whence (= where from), whither (= where, where to), wherefore (= what for, why).

Adverbial phrases such as how long, how often may also function as question words.

Question words may have various syntactical functions in the sentence, depending upon the information the speaker wants to obtain:


1. Who came first? (subject) - I did.

2. What makes you think so? (subject) - Your behaviour.

3. Whose team has won the match? (attribute) - Ours.

4. Which story did you like best? (attribute) - The last.

5. Who is that man? (predicative) - He is my brother.

6. What are you doing there? (object) - Nothing.

7. When are you going to come back? (adverbial of time) - Tomorrow.

8. How can I get to your place? (adverbial of manner) - By bus.


As can be seen from the above examples, word order in a pronominal question is characterized by inversion of the operator and the subject. Inversion does not take place when the question word is the subject or an attribute to the subject (see examples 1, 2, 3).

A question word may be preceded by a preposition.

On what resolution do you insist?


In colloquial English it is preferable to shift the preposition to the end of the question.


What are you laughing at?

What did you argue about?


In colloquial English the pronoun who is used as a question word functioning either as subject or object.


Who has done it?

Who do you see there?


The tone of pronominal questions is usually a falling one.

§ 14. Pronominal questions are often used as short responses. They usually consist of (a) a question word or (b) a question word followed by a preposition.


a) I’m leaving for home. - When?

George won’t come to-night. - Why?

Let’s meet again. - Where?

I think I can help you. - How?


b) I want to talk with you. - What about?

Come again. - What for?

Open the tin. - What with?


The patterns (a) and (b) are employed when some information is missing and the listener asks for the necessary information. The tone is falling.

§ 15. Question words preceded by prepositions are usually employed as echo questions. No information is missing in the previous remark, the whole idea is questioned. The tone is rising and the question word is heavily stressed. They express surprise, incredulity and sometimes incomprehension.


Let’s talk about life on Saturn. - About what?

I opened the door with a pin. - With what?

You are a shameless liar, - I am a what?

Our neighbour was born in 1973. - She was born when?


The whole of the question may be reduced to the question word, with the article repeated if necessary.


- Your husband was telling us all about the chromosomes.

- The what?

- The chromosomes, the genes...or whatever they are.


- The Boss wants to see you.

- The who?


The whole of the pronominal question may be re-addressed to gain time for the answer. The re-addressed question takes a rising tone.


When are you going to see me? - When am I going to see you? -Yes, when? - On Sunday, if it suits you.

Rhetorical questions

§ 16. Both general and pronominal questions may serve as rhetorical questions. A rhetorical question contains a statement disguised as a question. Usually it is a positive question hiding a negative statement. No answer is expected.


Can any one say what truth is? (No one can say what it is.)

Do we always act as we ought to? (We do not always act as we ought to.)

What else could I do? (I could do nothing.)

Who would have thought to meet you here? (Nobody would.)


In their form and intonation rhetorical questions do not differ from standard question types. The difference lies in their communicative aim. A rhetorical question does not ask for any new information. It implies a statement and is always emotionally coloured. Besides, it is employed to attract the listener's attention. Since rhetorical questions do not require an answer, they are not followed by a response. The speaker may give an answer himself to clarify his idea. Rhetorical questions are employed in monological speech, especially in oratory, and poetry in the writer’s digressions.

To me what is wealth? - it may pass in an hour.

If tyrants prevail, or if Fortune should frown:

To me what is title? - the phantom of power;

To me what is fashion? - I seek but renown. (Byron)


And what, after all, can it be other than modesty that makes him [Roy Kear] even now write to the reviewers of his books, thanking them for their praise and ask them for luncheon? (Maugham)


Rhetorical questions occur in colloquial English too, as in this fragment of dialogue:


Will you give me a picture of yours? - What for?... I’m not Marilyn Monroe or Jane Mansfield.


Imperative sentences


§ 17. Imperative sentences express commands which convey the desire of the speaker to make someone, generally the listener, perform an action. Besides commands proper, imperative sentences may express prohibition, a request, an invitation, a warning, persuasion, etc., depending on the situation, context, wording, or intonation.


Stand up! Sit down. Open your textbooks.

Be quick!


Formally commands are marked by the predicate verb in the imperative mood (positive or negative), the reference to the second person, lack of subject, and the use of the auxiliary do in negative or emphatic sentences with the verb to be.

Commands are generally characterized by the falling tone, although the rising tone may be used to make a command less abrupt. In writing commands are marked by a full stop or an exclamation mark.

A negative command usually expresses prohibition, warning or persuasion.


Don’t cross the street before the light turns to green.

Don’t allow children to play with matches.

Don’t worry.


Commands can be softened and made into requests with the help of the word please, the rising tone, a tag question or a “yes-no” question beginning with will or would.


Speak louder, please.

Repeat the last word, will you?

Would you do me a favour?


The falling tone and an exclamation mark at the end of a sentence opening with will express irritation and impatience, as in:


Will you stop arguing!

Will you be quiet!

§ 18. Though in the vast majority of commands the subject is only implied, the subject expressed by the pronoun you occurs when it is necessary (a) to specify the subject, sometimes for the sake of contrast; (b) to convey the speaker’s personal attitude to the event presented in the sentence (for example, irritation, anger, threat, impatience); (c) to soothe somebody. The subject in these cases is heavily stressed.


a) You come first, and I’ll wait a little.

You come first, and he will have to wait.


b) You say it again, and I’ll turn you out of here!

Just you wait, Mr Higgins.

c) You be a good girl, and don’t worry.


Note the initial position of the operator in negative commands with a subject.

Don’t you interrupt me.

§ 19. In the case of first person plural and third person singular and plural subjects, the imperative let is followed by a personal pronoun in the objective case.

Let him try again.

Let them come in.

Let us have some tea.


A first-person command often implies invitation or suggestion and may be followed by the tag shall we.

Lets do it together, shall we?


There are two negative constructions with let for the first person.

Let’s not quarrel about trifles.

Don’t let’s quarrel about trifles.


A third-person command admits of only one negative construction:

Don't let him interfere in our affairs.


A third-person command may begin with a nounor a pronoun denoting the person addressed.

Somebody switch off the light.

Mary and John fetch dictionaries.


Here the corresponding negative is:

Don’t anybody switch off the light!

§ 20. The imperative of some verbs may acquire interjectional force. Thus the forms listen, look (here), see (here) (Am.) - are used to attract attention.

Look here, let’s pull ourselves together, shall we?

Come (often doubled) may express encouragement or blame.

Come, come, don’t be so foolish. There’s nothing to worry about. (Ну, что ты, ну, полно.)

Come, come, you can’t expect me to believe you. (Ну нет уж.)

Hear! hear! expresses approval of somebody’s words at a meeting, etc. (Правильно, правильно.)

Verbless Commands

§ 21. Commands are sometimes expressed without an imperative verb, as in:


Silence! Water, please. To the right! Off with you! Gently, darling. Careful, please. No smoking! Hush!


Exclamatory sentences


§ 22. The main distinctive feature of this communicative type of sentence is a specific intonation; structurally it is variable.


You do look a picture of health! (statement)

Hurry up! (command)


The most common pattern of an exclamatory sentence opens with one of the pronominal words what and how. What refers to a noun, how to an adjective or an adverb. An exclamatory sentence has a subject-predicate structure; the order of the subject and the predicate verb (or the operator) is not inverted. An exclamation has a falling tone in speaking and an exclamation mark in writing.

What a funny story she told us!

What valuable advice you’ve given us!

How beautiful her voice is!

How beautifully she sings!


Exclamatory sentences can be reduced to the word or phrase immediately following the exclamatory signals what or how.

What a situation!

What a terrible noise!

How kind of you to let me in!


Besides these patterns an exclamation as a communicative sentence type often follows the pattern of other sentence types. Thus it may be formed on the pattern of the following structures:


1. Statements:

You do look a picture of health!

2. Commands:

Hurry up!


3. Questions. These are “yes-no” questions functioning as exclamations owing to the falling tone in speaking and an exclamation mark in writing. The most common pattern has a negative question form with the operator heavily stressed.

Isn’t it funny! (How funny it is! )

Wasn’t it a funny story! (What a funny story it was! )

Doesn’t she sing beautifully! (How beautifully she sings! )


A positive “yes-no” question has not only the falling tone but also stress on both the operator and the subject.


He said he had to talk. Did he surprise me! (How he surprised me! ) Am I fired! (I am very tired)


4. Pseudo-subordinate clauses introduced by the conjunctions if and that.

If only I were young again!

That this should be the result!


5. One-member sentences conveying signals of alarm such as Fire! Bandits! and highly emotional infinitive or nominal one-member sentences followed by a clause.


To think that she should have said so!

The idea that they should have behaved like this!




§ 23. There are utterances which do not constitute sentences (non-sentence utterances). They are:

1. Vocatives.



Mr West!

2. “Yes-no” utterances. These are mostly responses to “yes-no” questions.


Are you coming? - Yes/No.

3. Interjections.


Hi! (Hey! ) Oh!

Dear me! - Боже мой!

Look here! - Послушай!

Well, I never! - Вот те на! Вот так так! Ну и ну!

Goodness gracious! - Боже мой! Господи! Вот те на!

4. Different conversational formulas.






§ 24. Both structural and communicative types of sentences fall into affirmative sentences and negative sentences. A sentence is made negative by the particle not which is the most widely used negator. It is put immediately after the auxiliary or modal verb. The negator not has two forms: uncontracted and contracted. The former occurs mainly in formal English; the latter is usual in informal (conversational) English. There are two possible forms of negation contraction: one is when the operator is contracted and the negator uncontracted, and the other is when the negator is contracted but the operator is used in its full form.

Positive Negative
  Uncontracted Contracted
They’ve come. They have not come. They’ve not come. They haven’t come.
Tom is arriving tomorrow. Tom is not arriving tomorrow. Tom isn’t arriving tomorrow.   Tom’s not arriving tomorrow. (The 1st form is more common.)
You ought to have come. You ought not to have come at all. You oughtn’t to have come at all.

Note that the contracted negative forms of can and will are can’t and won’t and the uncontracted negative of can is cannot. The corresponding forms of shall are shall not and shan’t.


He will be late.   I can come early. I shall come early. He will not be late.   I cannot come early. I shall not come early He’ll not be late. He won’t be late. I can’t come early. I shan’t come early.


Only the full negative form is possible for the first person singular of the verb to be in declarative sentences, I'т not late, the form ain’t being used only in dialects and uneducated forms of English. However, the verb contraction I'т is possible.


If the predicate verb is in the presentor past indefinite, the auxiliary do is used with not to form the negative.


I like that idea. He understands you well. I do not like that idea. He does not understand you at all. I don’t like that idea. He doesn’t understand you at all.



As a rule, a sentence can contain only one negator. Not is usually, attached to the predicate verb, and other negative words are unnecessary in the sentence, unlike similar cases in Russian.


I don’t know anything about it. (one negator) I didn’t say anything to anybody. (one negator) Я ничего не знала об этом. (two negators) Я никому ничего не сказала. (three negators)


In negative questions the place of the negator not depends on whether it is contracted or uncontracted. The contracted form n’t is not separated from the auxiliary or modal verb, whereas the uncontracted not comes after the subject. The latter is more formal.

Don’t you see? Can’t you come with me? Haven’t you finished your letter? Do you not see? Can you not come with me? Have you not finished your letter?


Negative questions are often used as


a) exclamations.

Isn’t it funny! (= It is very funny! )

Aren’t* I tired! (= I am very tired)

* This is the first-person form of the verb to be in negative questions in British English.


b) invitations.

Won’t you come in and have a cup of tea?


In answer to negative questions yes and no are used according to the facts and not according to the form of the question.


Haven’t you seen the film? - Yes (I have seen it). Or: No (I haven’t seen it).

Isn’t it raining? - Yes (it is raining). Or: No (it isn’t raining).


Compare with the Russian:


Дождь не идет? - Нет, идет. - Да, не идет.


In imperative sentences not follows the do-auxiliary.


Do not speak so loudly.

Don’t worry.


The same is used for the negative imperative with the verb to be.

Don’t be so rude.

Don’t be lazy.


§ 25. Not can be attached to other parts of the sentence, not only the predicate verb. In this case it comes before the word or phrase it negates.


It’s here, not upstairs.

It’s a tiger, not a cat.

The operation was quick, but not carefully planned.

The question is important and not easy to answer.


Negative infinitives are made by putting not or never before the infinitive (and before the paricle to if there is one). Negative ing-forms are made in the same way.


It was impossible not to invite the Butlers.

He left never to return.

He was desperate at not having seen her.

§ 26. In short answers or orders with the verbs of mental activity think, believe, hope, suppose, be afraid and after the conjunction if the negator not may replace the sentence or clause it negates.


Will it rain today? - I hope not.

Can you come today? – I’m afraid not.

Drop that gun! If not, you’ll be sorry.


§ 27. After the verbs of mental activity think, believe, suppose and imagine the negation which belongs to the object clause is transferred to the principal clause. This is called transferred negation.


I don’t think you've heard about it (= I think you haven’t heard about it).

I don’t believe he has come (= I believe he hasn’t come).

I don’t suppose any one will learn about it (= I suppose no one will learn about it).


Compare with the Russian:

I don’t think you are right. - Думаю, что вы не правы.


§ 28. Besides not there are other words that can serve as negators and make the sentence negative. They are: no, nobody, nothing, nowhere, none (of) no one, and also neither (of), never and the conjunction neither... nor.

No sensible man would say that.

Nobody knows about it.

None of the applicants were German.

He has nothing to say.

He was nowhere to be found.

He never gets up early.

Neither of the statements is true.

I saw neither you nor your wife.

No is a determiner and is used with a noun when it has no other determiner (neither an article nor a possessive or demonstrative pronoun).

No is the usual negator with a noun subject after there is/are, and with a noun object after the predicate verb have.


There are no letters in the letter-box today.

I have no relatives in this city.

No can add emphasis to the sentence, implyingthe opposite of what is expressed by the word that follows.


He is no fool (= He is a clever man).

He showed no great skill (= He showed very little skill).

He had no small part in its success! (= He had a large part...)

This is no unimportant question (== It is really an important question).

She is no teacher (= She is a bad teacher).


In the same way never may add emphasis to the sentence and is often used in colloquial speech.


That will never do.

I should never have believed it.

Why did you sign those documents? - But I never did. (Я ничего не подписывал.)

Surely you never told him about it! (Ты не мог ему это сказать! )


If there is an article or a possessive or demonstrative pronoun before the noun, none of or neither of is used with the same meaning as no (see the above examples).

Neither of the books is of any use to me.

I want none of these things.

None can be used without a noun asa noun substitute.


You have money, but I have none.

Bad advice is worse than none at all.

§ 29. Besides negators there are other words that make a sentence negative in meaning. They are:

seldom, rarely... (= not often);

hardly, scarcely, barely... (= almost... not, hardly ever, scarcely ever).


As they also make the whole sentence negative they have the same effect on the sentence as other negators, that is exclude other negators.


a) The pronoun some and its derivatives are changed to any or its derivatives.


The rain continued with scarcely any pause.

He hardly thinks of anything else.


b) The adverbs sometimes and already are changed to ever and yet respectively.


Mrs. Greene hardly ever plays tennis now.


c) They are generally followed by positive, not negative, tag question.


She scarcely seems to care, does she?

Little and few have the same effect on sentences.


There’s little point in doing anything about it, is there?

§ 30. Double negatives are sometimes possible in standard English, but only if both negative words have their full meaning and this serves for the sake of emphasis.


You’ve no reason not to trust me.

Do you think Julius will try to see you? - No, he won’t. But he won’t try not to either.

She wouldn’t like to live in a place not so nice.

John hadn’t been a crime reporter for nothing.

Not only would he do nothing to advance them; he impeded them.

It’s not only not important, it’s not a fact.


In standard English double negatives, rare as they are, may neutralize each other and then the ultimate meaning of the sentence is positive.


You’ve no reason not to trust me (= You must trust me).

I just couldn’t do nothing (= I had to do something).


By removing one of the negatorsthe sentence is made negative in meaning.


I just could do nothing.




§ 31. Almost every sentence can be divided into certain components which are called parts of the sentence. Parts of the sentence are usually classified into main and secondary. The main parts of the sentence are the subject and the prediсate. They constitute the backbone of the sentence. The secondary parts of the sentence are the object, the attribute, the apposition and the adverbial modifier. The secondary parts of the sentence modify the main parts or each other.

Besides these two kinds of sentence components there are so-called independent elements, that is, elements standing outside the structure of the sentence, and therefore of lesser importance. The independent elements are parenthesis and direct address.




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