Usage of “no?” instead of “isn’t it?”

I have seen the use of “no?” instead of “isn’t it?” in the following text:

Finally she stepped back, wearing a smug smile. “Better, no?”
I examined myself in the mirror. My hair shone.

(From Leigh Bardugo’s Shadow and Bone)

Is it correct to use that formula? When can it be used instead of the auxiliary verb and the pronoun, as usual?


The sentence final ‘…, no?’ is a reasonable replacement for “right?” or the ESL bane of the complicated negative question tag “aren’t you?”, “isn’t he”, “isn’t that so” AS in:

“You’re going shopping now, aren’t you?” ->

“You’re going shopping now, no?”

But the meaning isn’t identical. For “aren’t you”, there’s some doubt about the future action. with “no?”, it’s more of a presumption with an arched eyebrow.

You can’t use it with a negative statement. Question tags in English are the opposite polarity of the statement preceding, and ‘no?’ is the negative tag. Strangely, ‘…, yes?’ can be used in English instead of ‘no?’ but is much less common.

The OED’s entry on ‘no, adv2 and int’ gives:

2 Used interrogatively. c. colloquial. As a question-tag at the end of a sentence: ‘is that not so?’, ‘am I not correct?’, etc.

Sometimes in representations of the speech of those for whom English is not a first language, corresponding to French n’est-ce pas?, Spanish no?, etc.

1932 L. Golding Magnolia St. i. v. 94 … A public school they call it, no?

1975 H. McCutcheon Instrument of Vengeance vii. 123 …’You just love them and leave them, no?’

2000 M. Ondaatje Anil’s Ghost 26 … This is a hospital, no?

Similarly for “…, yes?”:

[6. colloquial. As a question-tag at the end of a sentence, inviting agreement, approval, or confirmation: ‘isn’t that so?’, ‘am I not correct?’, etc.

Often in representations of the speech of those for whom English is not a first language.

1924 ‘W. Fabian’ Sailors’ Wives v. 74 … Not so dim; yes?
1942 E. Ferber Saratoga Trunk (new ed.) vi. 105 I speak like a true vacher, yes?

1996 E. L. Harry Society of Mind xv. 366 As the heavy blast door closed on the group ahead, a woman with a French accent said, ‘This is built very much for security, yes?’

2015 A. Mulligan Liquidator 81 If you don’t want people looking at your files, you encrypt them—yes?

Both entries for yes and no hint at their foreign sound, but from the examples it is not necessarily a foreignism.

Source : Link , Question Author : Quaerendo , Answer Author : Mitch

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