asl grammar

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 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

 

So You Think You Know Sign Language: Take The Test

To continue to learn sign language, you need to evaluate where you are. Take the test, & get the free download to tailor make a learning plan for you.

I’ve been thinking...

Dangerous, I know.

I've been thinking about my 6 kids and what I want for them. In the hyper-cricital way we parents excel at.

It's more of a pity-party, mega-drama-queen-slasher type of evaluation of me as a mother.

I fail miserably every time. I think only serial killers score lower.

Whew. I'm a bit better than a serial killer. Goals reached!

In an attempt to shake myself out of this downward spiral of misery and woe, I decided it was time to knock it off and be real.

I looked at where I was now with each of my children. What had they learned? What progress was being made and in which areas?

The Top 10 Most Common Mistakes ASL Newbies Make

ASL Newbies are so easy to spot. Why? They are generally sporting at least a quarter of these mistakes when you see them sign.

Now now, don't get all discouraged and upset with me. Well, you can if you want, I can't dictate your feelings.

Take a deep breath, pull on your big-kid britches, and be honest with yourself.

Are you making these mistakes?