BITS and Pieces

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Na! Na! Na!

The sweet sound of an ‘Ok Lah’ or a ‘No Lah’ have melted many a heart that has stepped on Singaporean soil. The locals can be seen using this sweet nothing at the end of almost every other sentence.

Cut to India, and we have our own version of the ‘Lah’. From the social butterflies of the Lutyens to the chatterati of South Mumbai and everywhere in-between, the affluent Indian’s English is infested with a ‘na’ (ना).

From a prodding “come, na!” and a remorseful “but this child never wants to study, na!” to an assertive “let’s go home, na!” we use this tag as freely as we possibly can.

But, what are tags and why do we use them? Well, question tags (Br. En) or tag questions (Am. En.) are grammatical structures that convert a declarative or an imperative sentence into an interrogative fragment (the tag) that invites an agreement or confirmation response from the listener.

Types and examples of question tags:

He’ll be here by noon, yeah?                        (Universal tag)

So, you aren’t coming tonight, right?         (Universal tag)

 

I am done with him, I am.                            (Statement tag)

He was a good singer, he was.                     (Statement tag)

 

Turn the volume down, will you?               (Imperative tag)

Let’s eat, shall we?                                         (Imperative tag)

The ‘na’ (ना) in the “Come, na!”, “but this child never wants to study, na!” or “let’s go home, na!” probably comes from the Hindi tag ‘na’ (ना) used in similar constructions in most Indian languages – “आ जाओ, ना!”, “लेकिन यह तो कभी पढ़ना ही नहीं चाहता, ना!” or “चलो, घर चलते है, ना!”

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Sandeep Nulkar Founder, Chairman & Managing Director, BITS Private Limited Sandeep Nulkar heads one of India’s largest translation and localisation companies. He is a linguist by passion, businessman by choice and author by circumstances. Over the past decade, he has been working closely with the corporate world and with students and the academia to bring credibility and recognition to the Indian translator within and outside India.