For example, I wanted to use the sort utility with the -t option to specify tab separators, but
sort -t "\t"
Don't use double quotes.
sort -t $'\t'
Or I think Ctrl V inserts a Tab??
Try Control-v, then Tab. If you see the cursor tab over to the right, it worked.
According to the comment by Mark you can also try Control-v and then Control-i.