ASL Questions: Learn ASL Grammar

Wanting to learn how to sign questions in ASL? Watch the video to find out how to sign ASL questions, see plenty of examples of WH questions and Yes/No questions, and get the free workbook to practice different sentences on your own. Super helpful and super awesome! 

I bet you woke up today and asked yourself “why!?!?!!”

Okay, I’m joking.

 

It is true that we each go through our days asking mini questions. Questions to ourselves, questions for others.

For instance, “why did you pour baby powder all over the carpet?”

 

Your goal for ASL is to become conversational.

Well, that means you need to know how to ask all sorts of questions.

 

Today, we’re going to cover the top 2 types of questions-- WH questions and Yes/No questions.

Be sure to grab the FREE practice workbook underneath the video before you head out.

 

 



2 basic rules for ASL questions:

 

TIME + TOPIC + COMMENT + QUESTION

 

TOPIC + COMMENT + QUESTION

 

Time = tense

Topic = main subject

Comment = what you’re talking about in reference to the topic

Question = the wh-question word -or- the y/n question word.

 

Related: Sign Language Sentences: The Basic Structure

 

WH Question Signs

Here’s a list of the signs you’ll use when asking a WH-type question.

  • WHO
  • WHAT
  • WHERE
  • WHEN
  • WHY
  • HOW
  • HOW-MUCH
  • HOW-MANY
  • WHAT-DO
  • FOR-FOR (what-for)
  • WILL

 

Do you remember what your eyebrows are supposed to do?

Furrow your eyebrows, as if you’re thinking [ thinking emoji ]. You’re also going to jut your chin out a bit. Nothing crazy!!

 

Related: WH-questions video

 

Yes/No Questions

For Y/N questions it’s whatever the question is and you add your y/n question eyebrows which are….. ? UP and tilt your head slightly forward.

For instance: PARTY GO?  SHOE LIKE?

 

The question part of the sentence is the LAST word, and sometimes it may be the last 2 words, depending on the question and length of the sentence.

 

Ask Questions in ASL

 

Let’s take some English sentences and translate them into ASL.

#1 Do you like fish?

TIME = none

TOPIC = fish

COMMENT = like

QUESTION = do you

 

2 variations:

FISH LIKE YOU?

FISH LIKE?

 

I’d sign: FISH LIKE? to keep it short and sweet.

 

#2  Are you going to the library tomorrow?

TIME = tomorrow

TOPIC = library

COMMENT = go

REFERENT= you

QUESTION =  are

 

TOMORROW LIBRARY YOU GO?

 

#3  Do you know where the museum is?

TIME= none

TOPIC= museum

COMMENT= know

REFERENT= you, it

QUESTION= where

 

MUSEUM YOU KNOW WHERE?

 

#4 Why is that man staring at me?

TIME= none

TOPIC= man

COMMENT= that, stare

REFERENT= that, me

QUESTION= why

 

THAT MAN he-STARE-me WHY?

 

#5 Are you sure the party starts at 6:30?

TIME= 6:30PM

TOPIC= party

COMMENT= start

REFERENT= you, it

QUESTION= sure

 

6:30 NIGHT PARTY IT START?

** or **

6:30 NIGHT PARTY IT START TRUE-BIZ?

 

sign language questions wrap-up

The rule of thumb for questions is to keep it simple. You probably noticed that I didn’t use all the referents or even all the comments. Perhaps the question word was a bit different than what was listed.

 

Don’t freak out.

You want to drill down to what the real meaning is and sign that and let the rest fall to the side. You don’t need it.

 

I’ve got a mini-workbook with questions for you to try this out yourself to really get a feel for how to do this.

 

 

Remember if you work on the questions on paper and really start to feel comfortable with the concept, when you go to sign with Deaf folks, the questions will come to you naturally and you won’t have to worry that you’re doing it wrong.

In upcoming videos we’ll be going over more types of ASL sentences!

 

Make it a habit to sign questions (either in your mind or for real) when you hear a question being asked or when you ask a question.

 

This is the #1 habit that helped me get from average signer to a professional signer today.

Soon, you’ll be able to sign any question, like:

CARPET AREA BABY POWDER POUR-OVER WHY!?!?!?!?!?!??!!!!!

Question of the day: Do have any questions about signing ASL questions?? Ha!

Sign Language Sentences: The Basic Structure

Sign Language Sentences: The Basic Structure

Did you ever diagram sentences?

Ohmygersh, I lurv diagramming sentences.

 

I could do it all day long and be happy.

Call me crazy.



ASL grammar, while being intimidating to English speaking folks is actually straightforward and easier than English grammar.

You just need to know the parts and their places. Rearrange the words into a new order and wham, an ASL sentence is born.

It’s totally therapeutic.

Learn the ASL Alphabet: Common problem letters + Mistakes

If you're learning the ASL Alphabet it's easy to make mistakes. In fact, there are several that are pretty common and typical for all signers, even if they've been signing for a while. Make sure you aren't making these mistakes with these problem letters. There's a great drill sheet for you to download as well that will help you develop good fingerspelling habits. Check it out, for sure!

 

One sunny Texas Thanksgiving Day, I donned my brand new basketball pants and sweater and challenged my mom to a game.

 

We had 2 super super handsome male guests over for Thanksgiving while they were away from their families for the holiday.

This 15-year-old was in lurv.

I dribbled down the drive, going for a layup, just as the guys came out to play with us.

I tripped over my own clumsy foot. Tore my brand new pants. Embarrassed the crap out of myself.

I sprung up accusing, “Mom! Why did you trip me?”

The poor woman wasn’t even near me.

Dashing into the house to clean up, instead, I ran up the stairs, threw myself on the bed and cried.

 

I HATE being embarrassed.

I want to throat punch embarrassment.

In fact, I want to throat punch people that embarrass me, and people around me when I’m embarrassed.

It’s just not right.

 


how to avoid embarrassment when signing

 

I hate embarrassment so much, in fact, I want to help you avoid it at all costs.

 

I’ve got lots of tips and tricks to share with you to avoid it, but for today, we’ll just focus on the ASL alphabet and the common problem letters.

Because, dude… it’s embarrassing to have people correcting you all the time.


 

Download the Drill Sheet to practice the tricky letters, test yourself, and develop good fingerspelling habits. 


 

I see several different problems and mistakes, so we’re going to take them one by one by one by one by one (what movie, y’all?) and show the mistakes and the fixes.

For more visual examples, be sure to zip through the video, if there are any that you aren't sure on.

 

Mistake #1 Holding letters sideways

 

Here are the letters that are held sideways when they shouldn’t be:

O, C, D, P, K, H

You’re right, H should be held sideways, just make sure it’s facing the correct direction-- your palm is facing your body.


The ONLY 2 letters to ever face sideways are G and H. That’s it.

Keep your palm facing forward for every other letter.

You can even sign G facing forward.

If you're learning the ASL Alphabet it's easy to make mistakes. In fact, there are several that are pretty common and typical for all signers, even if they've been signing for a while. Make sure you aren't making these mistakes with these problem letters. There's a great drill sheet for you to download as well that will help you develop good fingerspelling habits. Check it out, for sure!

 

Mistake #2 Mixing up letters:

These letter pairs are often mixed up. People will either completely forget the letter or will sign the other letter instead.

Not to worry. I’ve got your solution here.

D & F

D looks like a lowercase d when you look at its side.

F has 3 feathers on top of it.

 

If you're learning the ASL Alphabet it's easy to make mistakes. In fact, there are several that are pretty common and typical for all signers, even if they've been signing for a while. Make sure you aren't making these mistakes with these problem letters. There's a great drill sheet for you to download as well that will help you develop good fingerspelling habits. Check it out, for sure!

 

 

S & T

S has the thumb across the fingers and T has the thumb tucked between the middle and index finger.

You can remember S with sucker punch, with your hand in a fist as though you were about to sucker punch some poor fella.

 

If you're learning the ASL Alphabet it's easy to make mistakes. In fact, there are several that are pretty common and typical for all signers, even if they've been signing for a while. Make sure you aren't making these mistakes with these problem letters. There's a great drill sheet for you to download as well that will help you develop good fingerspelling habits. Check it out, for sure!

 

 

 

Q & P

Most people get stuck on these all together. They know they know them, but WHAT are they??

Some people even know they’re similar to G & K, but get mixed up.

 

Don’t sweat it. It’s no big deal if you get stuck a bit.

Q is G with your palm facing the ground. It’s a mini duck bill that goes Quack-Quack at your feet.

 

Sound silly? I know… but silly helps things stick.

K is P with your palm facing the ground. It’s sitting down to Pee.

Yup. I went there.

 

If you're learning the ASL Alphabet it's easy to make mistakes. In fact, there are several that are pretty common and typical for all signers, even if they've been signing for a while. Make sure you aren't making these mistakes with these problem letters. There's a great drill sheet for you to download as well that will help you develop good fingerspelling habits. Check it out, for sure!

 

Mistake #3 Wrong direction:

This is an easy one to fix. These are generally more of an issue for left-handed signers.

Your J’s & Z’s will be backwards. It’s not because we don’t love you. It’s because we do.

The J’s are hooked in toward you and not out away from you.

Z’s are drawn out.

 

If you're learning the ASL Alphabet it's easy to make mistakes. In fact, there are several that are pretty common and typical for all signers, even if they've been signing for a while. Make sure you aren't making these mistakes with these problem letters. There's a great drill sheet for you to download as well that will help you develop good fingerspelling habits. Check it out, for sure!
If you're learning the ASL Alphabet it's easy to make mistakes. In fact, there are several that are pretty common and typical for all signers, even if they've been signing for a while. Make sure you aren't making these mistakes with these problem letters. There's a great drill sheet for you to download as well that will help you develop good fingerspelling habits. Check it out, for sure!
 

Mistake #4 forming the letters incorrectly:

Some letters are just plain signed incorrectly. These are your highest priority to fix first.

G: You can point this one forward or sideways. Make sure your other fingers are under control.

M & N: don’t put your fingers down against your palm. Instead, rest them lightly on your thumb

 

If you're learning the ASL Alphabet it's easy to make mistakes. In fact, there are several that are pretty common and typical for all signers, even if they've been signing for a while. Make sure you aren't making these mistakes with these problem letters. There's a great drill sheet for you to download as well that will help you develop good fingerspelling habits. Check it out, for sure!

 

 

E: get your fingers down on top of your thumb or else it’s a screaming E and can be confused with a C.

 

If you're learning the ASL Alphabet it's easy to make mistakes. In fact, there are several that are pretty common and typical for all signers, even if they've been signing for a while. Make sure you aren't making these mistakes with these problem letters. There's a great drill sheet for you to download as well that will help you develop good fingerspelling habits. Check it out, for sure!

 

K: your fingers are not in a V shape with the thumb between, instead, the middle finger is extended forward and the thumb rests on the knuckle.

 

If you're learning the ASL Alphabet it's easy to make mistakes. In fact, there are several that are pretty common and typical for all signers, even if they've been signing for a while. Make sure you aren't making these mistakes with these problem letters. There's a great drill sheet for you to download as well that will help you develop good fingerspelling habits. Check it out, for sure!

 

T: keep your index finger resting lightly on your thumb and don’t push it down against your palm.

 

I: (not mentioned in the video) keep your thumb across your knuckles or it can be confused with a Y. This is one I can be guilty of. To help, sometimes I press my thumb onto my index finger with a slight bend to make sure it’s not sticking out.

 

If you're learning the ASL Alphabet it's easy to make mistakes. In fact, there are several that are pretty common and typical for all signers, even if they've been signing for a while. Make sure you aren't making these mistakes with these problem letters. There's a great drill sheet for you to download as well that will help you develop good fingerspelling habits. Check it out, for sure!

 

Fixing your fingerspelling mistakes

Give yourself an honest evaluation. You may need to whip out your trusty camera and video yourself fingerspelling some words and watch it back.

You’ll catch more mistakes this way over watching yourself in the mirror. You won’t be able to shift something when you see it wrong and you won’t be able to say, oh that’s good enough.

Seeing yourself on video will be very clear and easy to see where you slip up.

Remember, there is ZERO judgement for any troublesome letters. Do take the time to fix it now and you’ll be grateful you did.
— Rochelle

 

I created a drill sheet with lots of words that have the problem letters as well as the rest of the letters in the alphabet. You can use this sheet to test yourself as well as drill the letters that give you trouble.

Now you too, can avoid hiding in your room for hours, with torn pants, and damaged pride.

 



Question: Which ASL letter gives you the most trouble?

 

 

Learn American Sign Language Grammar: Past, Present, & Future Tense

You want to learn ASL grammar tenses and how to add tenses to your individual signs and sentences while in conversation? This lesson is just for you. Learn the 2 simple rules for adding tenses to your ASL sentences with examples for each tense. Don't forget to grab your free cheatsheet. It's a fantastic tool to have near you as you work on creating your own ASL sentences.
“If you have one foot in the past, and one foot in the future, you’re peeing on the present.”

 

This was one of those things we said to the kids at wilderness therapy. I’m sure they wanted to cut my eyes out every time.

Staying present is a hard thing to do, but so worthwhile.

 

Similarly, if you’re mixing up your tenses, or not even adding tenses to your signed conversations you are, in a way, peeing on all your efforts.

 

Too vulgar for you?

 

Well, how about this:


If you mix up your tenses, or don’t use them, you are neglecting a vital part of ASL grammar and thus, will have a much weaker message.

 

 

Let’s make sure you understand HOW to use tenses correctly and easily.

 

Many people email asking, how do I say ran? How do I say stopped? How do I say went?


It’s much simpler than you think it is.

 



 

There are 3 tenses: past, present, and future. We’ll start with the basic rules for all tenses and then break down the tenses with examples.

 

2 ways to add tense to your ASL sentences.

 

1: Put the tense in the beginning of the sentence.

If you’ve seen the sentence structure: Time + Topic + Comment

Tense is the TIME portion.

We’ll talk about what time words you can use when we talk about the specific tenses.

 

2: Put the tense immediately in front of the word it affects.

TENSE-SIGN  

The tense sign is signed faster and smaller than usual. The sign attached to it is signed immediately after.

 

Past tense in ASL

 

At the beginning of the sentence you can use signs like:

YESTERDAY

PAST/BEFORE

LAST WEEK

LAST YEAR

LAST MONTH

2 WEEKS AGO

RECENT

 

2 examples:

YESTERDAY STORE I GO

RECENT MYSELF TEXAS MOVE INDIANA

 

In front of the word you sign FINISH

 

2 examples:

FINISH-RUN

FINISH-JUMP

 

You don’t always use this FINISH method. It’s best to do the tense at the beginning of the sentence. Here are other ways you can sign ran and jumped:

 

YESTERDAY I RUN  

PAST I JUMP

You have the time at the beginning of the sentence and it still means the past tense of the word later on.

 

The TENSE+SIGN is a great method to use if you forget, it’s a longer message and you want to make sure they don’t miss the tense, or if you want to emphasize the tense for other reasons.

 

 

Present tense in ASL

 

These are the signs you use at the beginning of the sentence.

TODAY

IMMEDIATE

NOW

NOW-YEAR

NOW-WEEK

NOW-MONTH

NOW-WEEKEND

 

For in front of the word you sign NOW.

 

2 examples:

TODAY DANCE PRACTICE SHE HAVE

 

HURRY WE GO NOW-NEED

 

How do I say right now in ASL?

 

If you want to show the immediacy you would not sign RIGHT now (because that’s not the correct meaning), instead you show it with your mouth, face, body, and the way you sign it << your non-manual markers

 

 

Want to know more about non-manual markers? Join the free ASL Foundations course:

 

Future tense in ASL

 

NEXT-YEAR

NEXT-MONTH

NEXT-WEEK

2 WEEKS FROM NOW

TOMORROW

FUTURE/SOMEDAY

WILL

 

2 examples:

 

 

NEXT YEAR HIGH SCHOOL I GRADUATE I

 

TOMORROW ZOO WILL GO I

 

Farewell ASL grammar tip

One of the best things you can do for yourself is to let go of the need to sign the exact English words you’re trying to say. Instead, sign what you MEAN.

You may have to stop and think, what does this word, or phrase, really mean? What is it really saying? 

Sign THAT.

 

This will go a long way to help you start thinking IN ASL rather than trying to sign English.

 

Be sure to put the tense at the beginning of your sentences and don’t mix them up. Don’t sign past and future tense in the same sentence. Don't skip out on using tenses all together, or else…

 

You’ll be peeing on your signing. 

And that's gross.

 

 

Question of the day: 

What are other lessons you want to learn with ASL grammar?

 


mwah, Rochelle

 

How to Fingerspell Double Letters in ASL

You may be fingerspelling right along, happy as a lark, and then wham! Your hand stutters over a double letter. What is that I’m supposed to do? I’m not supposed to bounce my hand… so what’s the right way to do this?

 

Avoid all double lettered words?

Nope.