You are enjoying lunch outside with your coworkers. The sun is warming your face, you breathe in the fresh spring air, and say:
The weather is beautiful, or?
In German, we attach “…, oder?” to the end of a sentence to ask for confirmation of a statement. That does not translate to English, where “or” is not an interrogative (a “Fragewort”).
Translating “…, oder?” to English is not intuitive: you take the verb and pronoun of a sentence and negate them. Those are “is” and “it” (meaning the weather) in our example, which gives us:
The weather is beautiful, is it not?
We can even shorten this sentence a little:
The weather is beautiful, isn’t it?
If you phrased this question without attaching an “oder”, you could say:
Isn’t the weather beautiful?
Won’t you look at that. This version contains all the same words, and the meaning is identical as well. If you don’t feel comfortable using “isn’t it”, you can mix up the words a little to avoid having to use it.
We always negate the question-part of a sentence. If the original sentence is negative to begin with, the question-part becomes positive:
It is not raining, is it?
Here are some more examples using this pattern:
- We’re the world, aren’t we?
- You didn’t catch that reference, did you?
- Your dog has an Instagram account, doesn’t he? (Yes he does.)
As an exercise, try to identify the verbs and pronouns in these questions. How would you move the words around to avoid the various forms of “isn’t it”?
If you take a single lesson away from this course, let it be this one. With it, you are taking a huge step towards speaking English more like a native speaker.
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You can spot Germans by the fact that they use “or” to ask questions. Unfortunately, the word doesn’t work that way in English.Read full lesson