Free ASL Online Classes

ASL 2 – Unit 2

Time Signs

In this unit of the ASL online classes, you will be learning about time signs.


Days of the week

Conversation Practice

If you are learning American Sign Language with a partner, practice this conversation together:

A: Tomorrow I’m going to pick up some new books I just bought. Do you mind if I borrow your truck?
B: What time tomorrow?
A: Maybe around 10.
B: No, that won’t work, I need to take the truck to get serviced tomorrow morning. The afternoon would work better.
A: Would 2 work for you?
B: Yes, that works fine.

If you do not have a partner, practice signing with Deborah! In the video below, Deborah will be person A. Pause the video when prompted, and reply as person B.

Time Signs

Because there are no affixes in ASL to change the tense of verbs, time in ASL is communicated with time signs and inflections of time signs.

There are a couple easy rules to use when signing units of time.

You first need to know what “time signs” are. Here is a list to give you an idea of what signs are considered to be time signs:

  • TIME
  • NOW
  • HOUR
  • DAY
  • WEEK
  • YEAR
  • Etc.

Time signs follow certain movements. Signs that indicate the future move forward. Signs that indicate the past move backward. Signs that indicate the present are signed right in front of the body.

In the video below, I will demonstrate three time signs:

Notice how the signs move forward, backward, or stay in front of the body depending on the time they represent? The same is true for signs such as YEAR-PAST, TWO-DAY-PAST, THREE-MONTH-FUTURE, etc.

Numeral Incorporation

Numeral incorporation means incorporating a number into a sign. Just like how you can use numeral incorporation for age and money numbers, you can use numeral incorporation with time signs.

For example, instead of signing THREE before the sign WEEK for “three weeks,” you would simply use the three-handshape as the handshape for your dominant hand while signing WEEK. Normally, you should only incorporate numbers up to the number 9. After that, you would sign the number first and then the sign.

Watch the video below to see what I mean:

You can use numeral incorporation for signs such as WEEK, HOUR, MINUTE, YEAR, MONTH, AND DAY. You can create signs such as TWO-YEARS, TWO-YEARS-PAST, TWO-YEARS-FUTURE, etc.


Time-Topic-Comment refers to a certain word order for discussing time. When you talk about a past or future event in ASL, you would establish the time-frame before signing the rest of the sentence.

This creates a TIME-TOPIC-COMMENT structure. The same rules of word order for the TOPIC-COMMENT structure apply, only now a “time sign” is added to the beginning of the sentence.

Here are some examples:

Word Order Sign Example Literal Translation
Time-Subject-Verb-Object LAST-WEEK GIRL KICK BALL “The girl kicked the ball last week.”
Time-Subject-Verb YESTERDAY HE WALK “He walked yesterday.”
Time-Subject-Adjective 2-YEARS-AGO HE UGLY “He was ugly 2 years ago.”

Time signs are usually only signed at the beginning of sentences.

Time Sign Practice 2.1

Turn to page 3 in your workbook. In the video below, I will describe a day and time of day relative to today. I will give you all but one part of the sentence. The missing parts will either be [this, next, last] or [morning, afternoon, evening]. For example, if I am signing “Last Tuesday afternoon,” I will give you “____ Tuesday afternoon” or “Last Tuesday ____,” and you will need to figure out what I said for the blank. Write the answer on the line. The first one has been done for you.

When you’re finished, check your answers in the back of the workbook. Go back and review the questions you missed. Then, come up with 5 new statements and practice signing them.

Comprehension 2.2

Turn to page 4 in your workbook. This was the video used for the Sentence Type practice in the last unit. In the video below, Christine will sign 10 sentences. For each number, put an “X” next to the most accurate translation of the sentence that is signed.

When you’re finished, check your answers in the back of the workbook. Go back and review the questions you missed. Then, go back and sign each sentence for practice.

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