Plural Pronouns in American Sign Language: Numeral Incorporation

Incorporating a personal pronoun with a number expresses a plural pronoun in American Sign Language (ASL). This process is known as numeral incorporation in ASL linguistics.

A personal pronoun in ASL can incorporates with a number between one and five.


This indexing is incorporated with the manual number two. It means you and I (or me).

It is two-you, which means two of you or both of you in English.

The signer incorporate they with a number of two, which indicates both of them or two of them.

It means three of you. Notice that the movements of the handshapes number one (index finger) and 2-handshape are different from the numbers from three to five, in which the index finger points. The 2-handshape moves back and forward. The 3- to 5-handshapes move in circle.

It means we-three or three-of-us. The signer uses a different location that is closer to her physical space to indicate "us" or "we" in contrast to "you" where the location is farther from her physical space.

you-three, you-five, we-five, we-four, etc. (see some more in the dictionary).

These ASL pronouns can incorporate a number up to five. If it is more than 5 people, instead use 1-handshape (index finger) in a circular or arc motion after a number (or vice versa). E.g. "seven we", "nine them/they/those", etc. Or, one also says "we eight people..."

Related posts

Related tutorials: personal pronouns and spatial referencing.

New to sign language? "Where do I start?" or "How do I start learning sign language?" This ASL Rookie guide lists some selected links to the tutorials for ASL beginners to get started and keep rolling. It may be a useful review for intermediate-level learners and ASL students as well.

Some tutorial pages are a mix of free and premium versions. Access to premium content and links below are available in the PatronPlus subscription. More links/posts will be added from time to time.

Expressing needs and wants

  1. Making commands or requests

Talking about activities

  1. Frequency of time: how often?

Are you able to carry everyday conversations in ASL? Are you a student in the intermediate levels and beyond, who wishes to boost up your signing skills? You've come to the selected tutorial series. (Some premium content are available to PatronPlus membership.)

Stories, poems, performance arts, etc. in sign language.

This documentation project follows a child's language acquisition, literacy development, and phonological acquisition in sign language, specifically ASL, from newborn to age five in a natural native-ASL environment and visual culture.