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 signs 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).

"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.

"HOW" variations

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.

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

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

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.

Deaf/Sign Language History

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

Clearly, it has been used for a very long time! But, it has become less commonly used than the other ones since the 1980s. Apparently, this original sign has evolved into the modern form.

First 100 words.

  1. again
  2. also
  3. ask
  4. bad
  5. boy
  6. but
  7. can
  8. come
  9. deaf
  10. different
  11. drink
  12. drive
  13. eat
  14. email
  15. excuse
  16. family
  17. feel
  18. few
  19. find
  20. fine
  21. fingerspell
  22. finish
  23. food
  24. for
  25. forget
  26. friend
  27. get
  28. girl
  29. give
  30. go
  31. good
  32. have, has, had
  33. he
  34. hearing
  35. hello
  36. help
  37. home
  38. how
  39. Internet
  40. know
  41. later
  42. like (feeling)
  43. little
  44. live
  45. man
  46. many
  47. me
  48. meet
  49. more
  50. my
  51. name
  52. need
  53. new
  54. no
  55. not
  56. now
  57. ok, okay
  58. old
  59. other
  60. please
  61. remember
  62. same
  63. say
  64. school
  65. see
  66. she
  67. should
  68. sign, signed word
  69. slow
  70. some
  71. sorry
  72. store
  73. take
  74. tell
  75. text, sms
  76. thank, thank you
  77. their
  78. they
  79. think
  80. time
  81. tired
  82. try
  83. understand
  84. use
  85. wait
  86. want
  87. what
  88. when
  89. where
  90. which
  91. who
  92. why
  93. will
  94. with
  95. woman
  96. work
  97. write
  98. yes
  99. you
  100. your

As you feel more comfortable with the first few hundreds of ASL signs, progress further with your vocabulary and learn signing more.