ASL Lessons | Bookstore | Library | ASL University Main ►


CAN: The American Sign Language (ASL) sign for "can / able"
 

If you mean "can" as in a container of food, see: CUP

 

The sign for "can" as in "possible" uses "S" hands that move downward about six inches.
Note: If you use a double movement, it changes the meaning more toward being "possible."

CAN / possible

   



 

You can use a stronger movement to indicate more "assurance."

CAN!
 


A student writes:
Dear Dr. Bill,
I have a question regarding the word "can" plus shaking of the head
"no" to say cannot or can't vs. the sign for can't (point finger of
right hand coming down on point finger of other hand). Are both
excepted? Or is one better than the other? Or am I even wrong to think
you can sign the word can't/cannot by signing the sign for "can" and
shaking the head no (left to right)?
Thanks.
- Ram Levinger
Ram,
To me, signing CAN-(negative-head-shake) feels "very" awkward and at best might be used to mean "not able." Even for "not able" I would tend to use the actual NOT sign prior to signing CAN. Example: "HE/SHE NOT CAN WALK" = "He isn't able to WALK." I wouldn't recommend that though. Instead I'd just suggest signing "HE/SHE CAN'T WALK." Then if the other person said, "HE/SHE LAZY!" at that point I might sign, "NO! HE/SHE NOT CAN WALK! HIS/HER LEG BROKE!"
However the generally accepted sign for "can not" or "can't" is the CAN'T sign (dominant hand index finger striking the tip of the non-dominant hand index finger). The generally accepted sign for "not-possible" is the IMPOSSIBLE sign (dominant "Y"-hand striking the non-dominant hand palm twice).
Cordially,
- Dr. Bill

 


Notes:  The sign "CAN" is the basis for the sign "POSSIBLE."

Also see: CAN'T




*  Want to help support ASL University?  It's easy
DONATE  (Thanks!)

Another way to help is to buy something from Dr. Bill's "Bookstore."


Want even more ASL resources?  Visit the "ASL Training Center!"  (Subscription Extension of ASLU)  

*  Also check out Dr. Bill's channel: www.youtube.com/billvicars
 


You can learn American Sign Language (ASL) online at American Sign Language University  
ASL resources by Lifeprint.com    Dr. William Vicars