Learn ASL (American Sign Language) Online (ASL 1 – Unit 5)

ASL 1 – Unit 5

In this unit, you will learn ASL word order.





“Do you live at the school?”

“Yes, I live in the dorm.”

“Do you walk to your class every day?”

B: NO I get-IN #BUS.
“No, I take the bus.”

“What time?”

“Around 8 o’clock in the morning.”

Conversation Explained

“Do you walk to your class every day?”

Time signs such as “today,” “yesterday,” “every day,” “every morning,” etc. are signed at the beginning of sentences. This is because ASL follows a “TIME” “TOPIC” “COMMENT” sentence structure. You will learn ASL “TOPIC” “COMMENT” sentence structure later in this unit. You will learn ASL “TIME” “TOPIC” “COMMENT” structure in more detail in the ASL 2 class.

NO I get-IN #BUS.
“No, I take the bus.”

This sentence is a negative statement. Just like how there are affirmative statements, there are negative statements. You will learn ASL negative statements in Unit 6. Also, notice how Christine used the lexicalized sign for BUS.

“What time?”

This is a wh-word question, but is also commonly signed at “TIME?” with the wh-word question facial expression, without the wh-word.

Word Order

ASL sentences follow a “TOPIC” “COMMENT” structure. This is the same as the English “subject” “predicate” structure. However, instead of the topic always being the subject, the topic in ASL is whatever the comment is referring to. This can either be the subject of the sentence or the object.

The subject of the sentence is the person or object doing the action, the verb of a sentence is the action, and the object of the sentence is what is receiving the action. For example, in the sentence “The boy kicked the ball” the subject is “boy,” the verb is “kicked,” and the object is “ball.”

There are a few different variations of word order in ASL. You can sign in Subject-Verb-Object (SVO) word order, Object-Subject-Verb (OSV) word order, Verb-Object-Subject (VOS) word order, or even Object-Verb-Subject (OVS) word order.

All of the following sentences are correct in ASL:


In the video below, Cristian will demonstrate the word order variations above:

Word Order Practice 5.1

Turn to page 7 in your workbook. In the video below Cristian will sign 10 simple sentences. Circle the correct word order of each sentence (i.e. SVO, OSV, VOS, or OVS). The first one has been done for you.

Numbers 11-20

Watch the video clip below. I am going to model the numbers 11-20. Practice signing each number.

Number Practice 5.2

Turn to page 7 in your workbook. In the video below, Mando and I are going to sign 10 phrases. Write down the numbers signed in each phrase. 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.

Turn to page 8 in your workbook. Deborah will sign 10 sentences. She will fingerspell a name in each of those sentences. Circle the name that Deborah spelled for each number. 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, go back and fingerspell the correct names for each number for practice.

Vocabulary Quiz: Units 1-5

If you’ve been skimping out on learning your vocabulary, you better go back and study! I am about to quiz you!

Turn to page 8 in your workbook. In the video below, Mark is going to sign a story. During the story, numbers will pop up on the screen. When a number pops up, that is the number that corresponds to the sign Mark is signing at that moment.

Watch the whole video through the first time. Then, go back and watch it again, getting the signs you missed. You can pause the video to give yourself time to write as well as go back and watch a sign again. Write the sign on the line for that number.

(If the video is too fast for you, you might want to consider signing up for our paid online classes. The videos are shown in Quicktime Player which lets you use your arrow keys to watch the videos frame-by-frame to help you catch any signs you may have missed. Many students also find this useful for learning more advanced signing early on. And if you think you need extra help, check out The Start ASL Tutoring Program!)

When you’re finished, check your answers in the back of the workbook. Go back and review the questions you missed.

Reading Assignment

In DJSC! A Student’s Guide to Mastering ASL Grammar, read Chapter 6 (American Sign Language Syntax), Section 6.1 (Word Order). This section goes a lot more in-depth about word order in ASL. It is very important that you study this section so you can get familiar with all of the different (and sometimes more complicated) word orders used in ASL.

End of Unit 5

You’re done with Unit 5! Keep going! You will learn ASL sentence types in the next unit!

Are You Enjoying the Class? Share Your Thoughts!


  1. Profile photo of Madison Erickson
    Madison Erickson

    I feel like I’m INCREDIBLY behind after attempting the vocab quiz from units 1-5. I know the vocab (I practice a few times a day) but he was going way too fast for me to even hope of catching all of the words. Should we really be able to follow along with someone signing at that speed already? Or is that just something that comes with time? I watched that video easily 25 times all the way through and other segments more than that to try and catch the words and it was still too fast. Any advice for how to keep up/work on understanding when someone is signing that quickly?

  2. Shannon

    In this section, you state that there are 4 correct work orders: SVO, OSV, OVS, VOS. I’m taking a class through a local organization that provides interpreters for businesses in the area (Rauch, INC). The instructor says the V (verb) should be in second or last place, so he states the 4th option should be SOV as opposed to VOS. Are they both correct?

  3. Kara Theriault

    In the video for “How did you get here” I noticed that you used a different sign for how than we were taught earlier. Are both correct?

    1. Michelle Jay

      Yes, they are both correct. There are two signs for HOW. One that is used for questions like “How do you fix this” and the other for questions like “How are you?”

  4. Ashley Rosborough

    This website is so much help!! One of my best friends is deaf, which is what originally lead me to this site. I’ve started teaching some of my other friends how to sign and they have seemed to be enjoying it! I love how I can work at my own pace and all of the information laid out on this sheet! I’ve signed up for the news letters and love hearing from you guys! Thank you so much for making this and showing so many incredible people that they can have hope, and inspire others to make a change in this world!