How to tell ASL cardinal numbers: 1 to 100

A numeral is a system that represents a set of numbers. Take the number "nine", for example; "٩" in Arabic, "9" in English, "IX" in Roman, 九 in Chinese, and the '9-handshape' in ASL are expressed in different numeral systems (or numeral languages), yet they all represent the same number.

Like signed languages, the manual numerals around the world are not universal. Signed languages have their own signs for the numbers. Some manual numerals are one-handed and some are two-handed systems.

Not all numbers in ASL are expressed the same in different contexts, such as money, time, position, etc. Although the number forms remain the same, the palm orientation and movement may be different. This tutorial focuses on cardinal numbers.

Translation: number

Cardinal Numbers

If you're a beginner just getting started to learn ASL, you can start with the first 10 numbers only and come back to this tutorial page to learn further numbers in units. Or, if you're cramming, all right!

The video shows the numbers from zero to hundred with some tips. Watch the video and practice the numbers in in both receptive and expressive skills. For individual numbers, you also can check them in the ASL dictionary.

There are some rules for the ASL cardinal numbers from one to 100. Please note that some of these grammatical rules don't apply to other contexts (e.g. age).

Numbers with the palm in and out

For example, your palm is in -- facing you as a signer -- for the cardinal numbers one through five, but it comes to a different rule when telling ages. That is, your palm faces out for the ages one through five.

For the cardinal numbers one through five, your palm is in, facing you as the signer. For the numbers six through nine, your palm is out -- facing outward from the signer's perspective.

For the numbers eleven through fifteen, your palm is in. For the rest of the numbers except for the number 21, the palm is out.

The twenty's

The numbers 20 through 29 have different handshapes from the number two. So better practice on these numbers more. Use the "L" handshape for the "2" part from 23 to 29.

The bounce numbers

Like fingerspelling in alphabetical letters, signers don't bounce each letters with a few exceptions. Likewise in numbers, one doesn't bounce the numbers, except for the double numbers, such as 22, 33, 44, and so on up to 99. Except for 11.

The rocking numbers

The numbers between 67 and 69, 76 and 96, 86 and 89, 96 and 98 are called the rocking numbers. The movement is sideway leftward or rightward, depending on the higher-to-lower and lower-to-higher numbers.

For the numbers from lower to higher (e.g. 67, 78, 89, etc.), move sideway leftward from the signer's perspective. For the numbers from higher to lower (e.g. 87, 96, 76, etc.), move sideway rightward from the signer's perspective.

Activities or exercises

There are different ideas for practicing numbers in classes, in sign language clubs or with partners.

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