Handling verbs in past, present and future is much easier in sign language than in most spoken languages.
Most of the time, context will dictate the tense of a verb. If the person is talking about his vacation to the mountains last week then all his verbs are in the past tense. When you tell a story about last Christmas you don’t need to look for a way to add -ed to all your verbs. Context already tells your friends you are speaking in past tense.
Occasionally you will need to specify that you are talking about something in the future or past. This is easily done by adding the sign for FUTURE/WILL or PAST/BEFORE to your sentence. You can do the same thing for the present by adding the sign NOW. The addition of the PAST, PRESENT and FUTURE signs to a sentence can be added at the very front or end of a sentence in ASL. State what you have to say and then add PAST, NOW or FUTURE signs to the sentence and you have added tense to all your verbs.
Hello! Welcome to LearnSigns.com lesson number 18. In this lesson we are going to talk about verb tenses.
Now if you have learned another foreign language then you probably have experienced that there are lots of verbs. There are lots of times: future, past and all of that. In English we have all of that too, but we just don’t think of them that way. We don’t think of the complication that verbs can cause when you are trying to learn a new language. Many languages, as does English, again we just don’t think about it, have modifiers or things that make the verb either simple past or an action that is completed in the past or an action that started in the past but continues to the current time. So there are lots of different simple past tense and then present and future tenses as well. Well, you will be very happy to know that in sign language, generally, we talk about three tenses: past, present and future. And it’s really that simple.
Now most of the time context will tell you whether the action is in the past. A couple of lessons ago you learned several verbs, basic verbs. And you can put those verbs in the past or in the present or in the future when necessary. But context, like I said, context generally takes care of that. So you don’t have to, before every verb say, “in the past I did this.” You can just say, if you are talking about a story, let’s say something that happened last Christmas. Then every thing that is said is understood to be past tense. And therefore you don’t have to modify each verb so that it tells you that it is past tense. Like you would in a spoken language.
So past tense is controlled by context. Same way with present tense. If you are talking about something that will happen in the future, then that is also dictated by context as to how the verbs would be spoken, if you needed to speak them. But, typically with sign language you read what the person is saying and you know that it is future, past or present. Now if you are actually having to voice the verbs, voice the words, then you would need to definitely know exactly what is the English the word for that. But that comes naturally for those of us who speak English as our native language.
So there are only three basic tenses, or three tenses in sign language: past, present and future. And context dictates, for the most part, what you are going to do.
Now when you do need to distinguish whether this is something that happened in the past or in the future, then you can do your simple modifier, your sign. This is PAST, or BEFORE. In the PAST. And then PRESENT, if you need to do anything at all, you can do NOW, or you will also see it like this, NOW. I showed you both ways when we did that. NOW or PRESENT. And then FUTURE you take and you touch the side of your face and you push forward. FUTURE. And this is with your, with your…the end of your hand, the edge of your hand pushing forward. Where past tense you have your palm facing backward. If you are right-handed then when you do FUTURE your palm is going face to the left. Or if you are left-handed your palm will face to the right. So this is…you don’t push forward with your palm. You push forward with the side of your hand. So that is PAST, PRESENT and FUTURE.
So for example, if I wanted to say, “last year on my birthday,” I could say, “LAST, or in the PAST” and then the sign for BIRTHDAY. BIRTHDAY or whatever the sign is for BIRTHDAY in your area. That is one of the signs that changes quite a bit. But I can say, “last birthday, I ate.” I don’t have to say, “I A-T-E, this is the sign EAT, so A-T-E is a another sign.” It is not a different sign it is the same sign. So last birthday I ate cake, or cake, however you do cake.
It is just that simple for doing your verbs. So past tense you just put it in the past if it is necessary to say that and then you have your past tense verbs. Present you’ve got your present tense verbs. And then future for your future tense verbs.
You don’t have to say every time. “I WILL go to the store. I WILL eat lunch. I WILL take a nap.” If you are talking about things that are going to happen later today. You can say, “Today, I WILL go store. I WILL eat lunch. I WILL take a nap.” Again, I don’t have to modify every one of those future tenses with the WILL. You can, but it is also very simple if the context is already been set up that the future tenses, that you are talking about, the future. Then you don’t have to do all of that.
So think of tenses—past, present and future as being very simple in sign language. Now, I don’t mean to say it is simplistic. You can convey so much of what you say in English. You can convey it in sign language as well. It is just is done in a different way. And so when you are thinking about how do I put together a sentence and everything—context tells you most of the time what the verbs are. Past, present or future. And then if you do need to modify it you can modify it with PAST or BEFORE, PRESENT / NOW or FUTURE.
This is just a simple lesson on how to use those verbs that we learned just a couple of lessons ago. So it is LearnSigns.com/18.
I am also going to talk about some sentence structure in some upcoming lesson. And it would be helpful for you if you did some reading on sentence structure and how that is laid out. I am going to write some posts at LearnSigns.com that you can read. So occasionally when you are checking these videos go to the website and see what else I have written in there that will help you with your grammar, your sentence structure. And I will have those posts up there periodically between videos. Because they are not so visual. They are easy to read and probably easier to comprehend and digest. And then I can talk about those in a video as well.
Thanks for watching. This is LearnSigns.com/18.