This is a lesson plan for Intermediate to Advanced level learners of English, EFL, ESL, and ESOL.
Let’s talk about the topic of Englishness. What does it mean to be English? Why are English people so… well, you know. Right? Here are the 40 vocabulary words and phrases that best describe Englishness.
You can download the free accompanying material below:
Statement – usually short – plus question tag, with a question mark.
They are often used in spoken English.
In many languages (e.g. Polish) we can use the equivalent of …yes? In English we can say: yes, yeah, right (Am/E), OK, got it, understand, but the tone can be rude and confrontational/angry; too direct; English is not a direct language; it sounds like an order, and we don’t like direct orders. (In Polish, use tak for checking and no nie or nie prawda for small talk (but this sounds old fashioned – old people say this), or no tag.)
We can use any auxiliary verbs, including modal auxiliary verbs. Present simple can be confusing – you have to choose DO/DOES or BE. Also past simple: DID or WAS/WERE. We use contractions; in rhetorical speech we can say, Is it not? Were we not? etc.
It is not as common with pronoun I. I’m… aren’t I? (This is an oddity – we can’t say am not I? amn’t I? There is no contraction for am not.)
We can use them to sound sarcastic, e.g. ‘That was a great film, wasn’t it?’ My descending tone shows that I believe the opposite – it was not a great film.
They are more difficult to use than they look – because of the thought process…
The thought process of using question tags:
Realise what tense it is
e.g. They’re meeting at ten, aren’t they? (present continuous)
Realise what pronoun is used (e.g. two names become they) and match it
They … they
Is it a singular or plural subject? They = plural
Positive – negative; negative (even without not, e.g. never) – positive; do the opposite
They’re meeting… = positive, so the question tag has to be negative: …aren’t they
Match the auxiliary verb – are > aren’t
Understand the context: need info or checking/making small talk; intonation differs:
we are asking a question; we want an answer: information – voice goes up