How to express years in American Sign Language

Learn how to tell years in American Sign Language (ASL), frequency, and duration of the year in calendar.

Gloss: year

Generally, the format for telling a year in ASL is "xx|xx" with an exception for the years from 2000 to 2009.

For example, the format for the year 1976 in the video above shows as 19|76.

As the new year 2000 approached, Ameslan people discussed about how to pronounce the year 2000 because the format (pronounciation or sign production) for the years of the 20th century (1900-1999) was different. Eventually, they had come to a consensus that the production for the years 2000-2009 is 20-- (in a horizontal semi-circular movement).

ASL for the year 2009 above: 2009

A decade later, again the phonetic structure for 2010 and onward doesn't work the same as the years 2000 through 2009. The structure for the years 2010 and onward is basically the same as before 1999.

ASL for the year 2016 above: 2016. Video contributed by Greg Eyben with permission.

In the year's

The video below shows how to articulate, for example, 1920s, 1940s, etc. The signer twists around the letter "s" right after the number.

Gloss: 1950s

For 1950s, we sign 19|50s. We twist around the letter "s" right after the number.

Frequency in year

This describes how to tell a frequency in year in ASL.

Gloss: yearly or every-year

Gloss: biyearly or every-two-year

Gloss: quadrennial or every-4-year

Numeral incorporation with this also work for the numbers 3 and 5 (e.g. every 3 years and every 5 years respectively).

Tell future in years

The following illustrations demonstrate some ASL signs to express a number of next years.


English equivalent: next year (next one year).


The numeral handshape of the ASL word next-year can be incorporated with a number between 1 and 5. Beyond the numbers from six, one signs the number and then "year" (informal) which has a different movement from the regular or formal "year".

And so on.


Numeral incorporation doesn't work with the rest of the numbers. This video shows the similar format for the rest of the numbers.


Use the cardinal numbers for the rest of the numbers in a similar format as the previous ones.

Another way of signing this expression is this format: # + YEAR + LATER but this can be referred to the future tense or the past tense in a story (e.g. My grandmother moved to America and got married in 1890. Fifteen years later, she died).

Another way is FUTURE + # + YEAR. E.g. MAYBE FUTURE 8+YEAR IX-me MOVE-OUT.

Related posts

Related ASL topics: learn how to count numbers from 30 through 100.

Learn how to sign time (o'clock), how to tell AGE.