“Time” in American Sign Language (ASL)

Today’s lesson references the hand’s position/MOTION, for when you are signing “time” (future, past, or present), in American Sign Language (ASL).  Before you read the rest of this blog, PLEASE make yourself comfortable with how to sign the following words:  today, tomorrow, yesterday, before, past, future, recently, now, long ago, many years ago, and other signs that you can think of that refers to “time”, as in future, past, or present.

Listed below are the approximate locations of where your time sign (hand)  needs to be when expressing a specific time, such as 2 months ago, 10 years ago, 50 years ago…

Present time:  Now. Today.   (Near your body.  Look at our ASLdeafined dictionary to see the sign)

Recent Past:  Before. Recently.  Yesterday.   (Move the hand backwards, from the “present” position, towards the back of the shoulder.  Again, look at our dictionary)

Past:  Years ago.  5 years ago.  (Exaggerated hand movement over your shoulder)

Distant Past:  Long time ago.  Once upon a time.  50 years ago.  (Heavily exaggerated motion past your head)

Near Future:  Tomorrow.  Two days from now.  This weekend.  (Slight hand motion forward  of your body)

Future:  Years from now.  5 years from now.  (Exaggerated forward motion from your body)

Distant Future:  25 years from now.  Way distant future.  (Heavily exaggerated forward from your body)

Here are some examples to follow when you are signing “time”:


1.  English:  Yesterday, I went shopping with my mom.

ASL: Yesterday  me mom go shop.

 2.   English:  He will retire in nine years.

ASL:  Man he retire nine year future (will).

 3.   English:  Tomorrow is Sunday.

ASL:  Tomorrow Sunday.

4.   English:  A long time ago, I walked to school.

ASL:  Long ago (five-hand moving backwards from body) me walk school.