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The absence of tags in French and Spanish

We are so used to using tags in English that we don't even think about them, do we? That's one I’ve just used, but there are loads more, aren't there? June, you were asking about these, weren't you?

Tags have several functions and that is why French and Spanish speakers learning English are keen to master them. Tags make a conversation sounds more natural, encourage the listener to become active in the conversation and offer the speaker reassurance that the listener is following what he or she is saying.

For speakers of other languages, the English tags are quite complicated. On the other hand, English speakers learning French or Spanish often feel a need to use a tag but can't find one as tags do not translate easily.

So what are the equivalent expressions to English tags? Let's start with French. (if you are a Spanish enthusiast, you can jump to the next paragraph!) The easiest expression is 'n'est-ce pas' which can cover the idea of ‘don't you?’ ‘can't you?’ at the end of a statement. What is tricky is the response to this. A simple ‘oui’ or ‘non’ can sound a bit too blunt so if you are agreeing, it’s sounds more natural to say, ‘oui, c'est vrai’, or ‘oui, bien sûr’. If you don't agree with the statement, use 'mais non!' which is a strong contradiction, just like ‘No I don’t!’. Here’s an example: Tu joues au foot, n'est pas? Mais non! Or conversely, ‘Mais si’ if you are contradicting a negative statement. E.g. Tu n'es jamais allé en Turquie, n'est pas? Mais si, l'année dernière.

The Spanish equivalent of the tag at the end of a statement would be ‘verdad’. Juegas al tenis, ¿verdad? Or, no juegas al tenis, ¿verdad? The replies would be ‘Sí, es verdad’ or equally ‘la verdad es que sí’ or ‘sí claro’ and the negative would be ‘Pues no’ or ‘Pues sí’ if the question was negative like this one: No juegas al fútbol, verdad? Pues sí / Pues no.

Next time you need to give a short answer in French our Spanish, have a go at adding a tag equivalent - the goal is to make your answer a little longer than just ‘yes’ or ‘no’ and I promise you will sound more natural and less stilted. Let me know how you get on in the comments box below or comment if you use any other tag equivalents. Please also share with any friends who may like to know about this topic.

Merci / gracias, Angela

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