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American Sign Language: "are"

To express the concept of "are" in ASL you don't use a specific sign but rather you consider what you mean and you choose the sign or set of signs and grammar features that most closely match your meaning.

Very typically the concept of "are" is expressed as part of a question that can be answered with a "yes" or a "no."   When asking such questions we raise our eyebrows.  So, in a "yes/no"-type question the concept of "are" is expressed via raising the eyebrows.

"Are you...?" = "raised eyebrows" + INDEX-(pro.1)

For example, if you want to ask "Are you married?"

You would sign "YOU MARRY?" while tilting your head a bit forward and raising your eyebrows.

"Are you married?"


Another way we can help establish the concept of "ARE" when asking a question is to repeat the sign YOU at the end of the sentence. For example I could sign "YOU MARRIED YOU?"  People often ask me why some ASL sentences repeat the sign YOU again at the end of the sentence.  The answer is it depends on how clear you want to be.  The same thing happens in English.
Version 1:  "You married?"
Version 2:  "Are you married?"

Suppose someone asked you, why do English speakers use the word "ARE" in version two of that sentence? Does it change the meaning?  You would probably answer that both sentences mean the same, but the second sentence is a little more formal and clear. In English the question "You married?" relies solely on the raising of the tone of voice at the end of the word "married" to indicate that it is a question, whereas the sentence "Are you married?" relies on both the extra word "ARE" and the raising of the tone of voice on the word married.

Likewise, ASL sometimes repeats the sign YOU at the end of a sentence to make it clear that you are asking a question and expect an answer.

Here's an example, this time asking about divorce and repeating the sign YOU at the end.

"Are you divorced?" = "YOU DIVORCED YOU?"




The concept "ARE" is also expressed in other ways.

For example, if you wanted to say, "There are 15 sandwiches," you could sign:

"Are" = head-nod
If you wanted to say, "They are here." You could sign:  THEY HERE-(head nod). 

If you mean "are" as in "indeed" then a good sign to use is the sign is the sign for "true."
See: TRUE.


There is a sign in Signed English for the word "are."
That sign places an R-hand at the lips and moves it forward. That sign is not ASL and I don't recommend it for use on an ASL test nor in the ASL classroom.

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