How to Sign "Understand" in Sign Language

When you are first learning ASL, you want to be really familiar with this sign. As you are learning the language, there’s bound to be signs that you don’t understand or moments when you are lost in translation. Similar to KNOW, being familiar with this sign will help you convey whether you’re able to follow along or not.

Signing "Understand"

  1. Hand Shape: Start with your dominant hand in an “S” handshape, or a closed fist. Eventually, this will turn into a “1” handshape, with your index finger extended.
  2. Sign Location: Position your dominant hand near your forehead, with your palm facing backwards and your pinky closest to your head.
  3. Movement: Flick your index finger up and down, essentially going from “S” to “1.” This can be representative of a lightbulb going on.
  4. Facial Expression: If you are understanding what’s going on, wear an enlightened facial expression, while nodding your head in comprehension. If you don’t understand, furrow your eyebrows and shake your head, indicating that you don’t know what’s going on.


This sign is indeed a complete sentence. Depending on what facial expression you are showing, you can completely say, “I do understand.” or “I do not understand.”

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Learn more signs on our regularly updated ASL page! As you're picking up sign language, try using Ava for more meaningful conversations with Deaf and hard-of-hearing people.