A student writes:
Dear Bill, I am enjoying your
I have associated with the Deaf
community for 15 months and find your course very helpful.
However, I have a question about one
of your sample sentences.
The English is "Have you met my
Your ASL response is "You - meet my
Since you are asking about if the
person has already met my brother in the past, wouldn't the
correct ASL phrase be "YOU FINISH MEET MY BROTHER?"
Which would be asking "Have you in
the past met my brother?"
I could be all wrong. But I thought
I would ask anyway.
Great question. It could go either way depending on the situation
If my brother is in the room and I am introducing you around, and I
think that you don't know he is my brother, I might sign:
INDEX-(point at brother) MY BROTHER-[smile, single small nod of head],
FINISH MEET?-[raise eyebrows for yes/no question expression] Which
basically says, "This is my brother, have you meet him?"
However, if I simply signed "YOU MEET MY BROTHER?" (while raising my
eyebrows in the facial expression for a yes/no question), it would be
understood that I'm asking "Have you met my brother yet?"
Your response (if you had already met him) would likely be, "FINISH" or
if you hadn't met him you would likely sign "NOT-YET."
Now, suppose it is the day after a party. Suppose you and I are talking
about what a great time we had and I recall that my brother showed up at
the party and I want to know if you met him. Since we have already
established that we were talking about something that took place last
night I'd simply sign:
"YOU MEET MY BROTHER?"
Which would be interpreted as "Did you meet my brother?" In that case it
would be totally unnecessary to add the sign "FINISH" (but it wouldn't
be wrong either).
A student asked me quite a few questions about how to
sign PLAY (as in playing a game, not I went to the play at the theater
house). One of the challenges in responding is that the student sent
me only sentence fragments and not complete sentences. Having a complete
sentence makes it easier to come up with a suitable way to sign the concept.
"I play …"
1. I/ME PLAY…
2. Sometimes the game itself incorporates the concept of "play" so you
don't need to add the sign. For example: "I/ME GOLF." = "I play golf."
"I am playing."
1. I/ME PLAY [head nod] (I'm playing.)
2. I/ME PLAY NOW (I'm currently playing.)
3. I/ME PLAY I/ME [head nod] (I'm indeed playing.)
Notes: Signing "I" at the ending is sometimes called "Pronoun Copy."
The "Pronoun Copy" is often used to indicate state of being concepts or
questions by combining the repeated use of the pronoun along with a head nod
[for affirmations] or raised eyebrows [for questions] to indicate such
concepts as: I am, I do, do you, will you, have you, are you, etc.
"I have played"
1. I/ME PLAY FINISH = "I'm done playing. I have completed playing."
2. I/ME FINISH PLAY = "I've already played…).
3. I/ME PLAY PAST-(before) = "I've played that in the past." "I've played
4. PAST I/ME PLAY… = "Previously I played…"
Example 1: Prompt: YESTERDAY YOU ENJOY PLAY?
Response: "YES, I PLAY all-DAY!" = "Yes! I played all day!"
Note: Sometimes the "past tense" (-ed) concept is expressed by the
conversation partner in a previous sentence.
Example 2: "NOW-MORNING I PLAY C-H-E-S-S" = "This morning I played chess."
"I was playing…"
I PAST PLAYING…
DURING I PLAY…(I was playing [then something occurred…])
YESTERDAY I GO MY FRIEND HOUSE PLAY GAME. I PLAY, HAPPEN! POLICE SHOW-up! =
I went over to my friends house yesterday to play a game. I was playing when
all of a sudden the police showed up!
"I had played…"
Yesterday I lost the game. I had played my best but opponent was better.
YESTERDAY I LOSE-COMPETITION GAME. I PLAY MY BEST. NOT-MATTER. MY ENEMY
"I have been playing…"
I/ME UP-TO-NOW/SINCE/HAVE-BEEN PLAY.
"I will play…"
1. Context: Your friend is setting up a multi-player board game and looks at
you and signs:
YOU PLAY?-[eyebrows_up] You respond: "I PLAY." This could be interpreted
as, "Are you going to play?" "I will play." (or "I'll play.")
2. I/ME PLAY WILL-(future)! (Putting "WILL" at the end indicates commitment
-- not tense. This sentence then means: "I will certainly play!")