The purpose of the word "the" is usually to identify or specify a particular
noun. ASL has a variety of ways to specify nouns and/or to identify
ASL doesn't use a specific sign for the word "the." The right way to
express the concept of "the" in ASL depends on your meaning.
Note: Signed English does have a specific sign for "THE" but that sign is
not commonly used by adult native Deaf signers.
Here I'll share with you some of the more common ASL methods of specifying nouns
or referring to particular nouns.
INDEXING / pointing:
IT / HE / SHE / THERE / "the one that is right there"
THERE: "that one there"
On first reference it helps to glance briefly at the object or place while
pointing at it (if it is in view).
Also see: INDEXING
A student asks: "When asking for the title of a book or movie in
ASL and the word "The" is part of the title, do you just skip that when
giving the title? Example: The Nancy Drew Series. It seems like it would be
funny to omit the "The." Do you sign T-H-E C-H-R-O-N-I-C-L-E-S O-F... with
When considering how to sign "the" you need to consider your context. Often
when referring to the title of a book or movie you are specifically
referring to the English title of that book or movie to first establish your
context and then later on second and future references to that title you
will just use the ASL signs that most closely represent the general idea of
the title. Often what we do the first time we introduce a title as new
topic in our conversation is we use the QUOTE
sign (which also happens to mean TITLE) and then spell T-H-E and then do the
rest of the full title using signs or a combination of spelling or signs.
Or you might even see people use the signed English sign for THE which holds
up a "T" hand (palm toward the non-dominant side) and then twists palm
forward as it slides a couple inches toward the dominant side.
Two people discussing Harry Potter and Nancy Drew stories might upon first
reference spell out the titles fully and then for the rest of the
conversation just spell HP and/or ND.