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ABOUT: The American Sign Language (ASL) sign for "about"


This page discusses the concepts related to the word "about" including the general sign for "about" as well related concepts such as: title, quote, approximately, concerning, locale/area/thereabouts.

The right sign for "about" depends on your intended meaning.  

The general sign for "about," as in "Tell me about your family." is typically done by using an index finger for the dominant hand and a "flattened O" handshape for the non-dominant hand. (In ASL it would be very common to sign "describe-(EXPLAIN) YOUR FAMILY) to mean "Tell me about your family" -- but that isn't my point here. My point is that there are many signs that mean "about" and I'm now going to show you that general sign:

The dominant hand (right hand for most folks) draws a circle around the base hand.

ABOUT (general sign)

(For Windows Media Player format, see: "ABOUT"  )

However, I've seen people using an index finger handshape on both hands.  I prefer to use the "flattened O" handshape to make sure the sign isn't confused with the sign "WHEN."  Some Deaf (including a couple of my friends) do this sign with an index finger for the dominant hand and an "H" handshape for the non-dominant hand. I don't particularly like that variation, but it is used by enough people that I think it is worth recognizing.

I find very little use for the generic "about" sign. There is almost always a more specific sign available.
Instead of "about" I tend to use other signs like "explain/describe," "quote," or "what's up?"

For example, I could sign, "YOUR TRIP, WHAT's-UP? " to mean "tell me about your trip.  Or I could sign, "DESCRIBE YOUR FAMILY" to mean "tell me about your family."  Or to express the concept "Today we are going to talk about dogs," I could sign "TODAY WE DISCUSS QUOTE-(topic) DOGS."  To express the concept, "I'm going to tell you about my dog." I could sign "MY DOG? I TELL YOU STORY." (Or I could use the explain sign again.)

The general sign "about" is indeed used in the Deaf Community and it is a good sign to know.  It does pop up in conversation, as in, "Tell me about...(your boyfriend, your new house, your school...etc.)  But you will just as often see people say, "YOUR BOYFRIEND LOOK-LIKE WHAT?"

Please keep in mind that there are other signs and sign combinations that might be more appropriate depending on the sentence.  Check out the signs below.

About as in "the subject of an article or book."  This book is "about" ...


The above sign can be used to mean:  Title, quote, subject, topic, ...and "about."

About as in "approximately":

The above sign can also mean:  In the area of, around, approximately, "or so," thereabouts, -ish...

Note:  If you wanted to sign, "He just about made it..." you could sign, "He almost made it."

If you wanted to say, "I'm almost finished" you could sign, "I soon finish" or "I finish soon."


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