HOW in sign language

ASL written for HOW

This entry shows you how to say "how" and variations in sign language (ASL) as well as how to sign the common greeting question, "how are you?" and how the ASL-speaking toddler acquires the sign. Plus, a tip on how to learn sign language.

ASL signs for HOW

There are several variations for "how" in American Sign Language; a few of them were used in the old times. The question is how can you use them?

Definition: In what way or manner; by what means; used to ask about the condition or quality of something.

Pronunciation/articulation: Dominant "10" handshape (palm orientation facing left) twisting once while in contact with passive "10" handshape.

Usage examples in contexts (note that these English sentences are not ASL; they only give examples of contexts): "How do you know?", "How are you?".


Pronunciation/articulation: Dominant "10" handshape (palm orientation facing left) twisting twice while in contact with passive "10" handshape.

Usage examples: "How did she/he know?!" as in how did they find out? translated/glossed as "IX KNOW HOW?!", "How does it work?" translated/glossed as "IX WORK HOW\/" (where the symbol \/ represents burrowed eyebrows for wh-questions).

Clearly, it has been used for a very long time! It has been used since as far back as 1913 and 1923 in print/video and it's still used by some Deaf signers today. It looks like that this original sign has evolved into the modern form where the hands are more closed.

Pronunciation/articulation: Both 15-handshape (palm orientation facing signer) hands in contact twisting forward.

This sign in the old video clip was seen signing by Deaf American George Veditz in his 1913 film, "The Preservation of American Sign Language".

Old variation; still used today in the 21st century but less used.

Pronunciation/articulation: The tip of the dominant "15" handshape twisting while in contact with the tip of the passive "15" handshape.

"How are you?" sentence

For the common English greeting question, "how are you?", watch the ASL translation below:

As you might notice, there is no "ARE" in it as ASL has its own grammar and determiners. Remember ASL is not signed English. It's its own language.

Toddler signing "how"

In general, toddlers answers simple "where" questions at age 1-2 by looking, choosing, or pointing to something. At age 2-3 years, toddlers ask simple "what" and "where" questions. Then, they use "how" at age 2-3 years.

Beyond basics: HOW phrases

How many?

Meaning: Used to ask about an amount; what number.

ASL student tip: Be sure to furrow your eyebrows for a WH-question.

How much?

Meaning: What price?


Other WH-questions: WHAT, WHICH, WHERE, WHEN, WHY, WHO.


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Written ASL

[Note: ASL writing is not an official standard. This sign language writing remains in a state of open space to allow room for experiment, evolution, and improvement.]

ASL writing for HOW

In si5s writing system.

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