How to Express Your Feelings in American Sign Language

By Adan R. Penilla, II, Angela Lee Taylor

American Sign Language (ASL), like any other language, allows you to communicate your feelings. You can sign about how that movie made you sad or how seeing your Deaf friend made you happy:

  • Angry: Make the open-5 hand shape, palm toward your face, and pull your hand away from your face, scrunching up your fingers.

    Girl using sign language to express anger.

    Your fingers represent the furrows that appear on an angry face.

  • Happy: Place your palms at upper-chest level, hands open and facing your torso, and make little circles with your hands or pat your chest.

    With her hands at upper-chest, a girl makes little circles with her palms to show she is happy.

  • Sad: Using both hands, place your spread-out fingers at your face, palms toward your head so that you’re peeking out between your fingers. Then, making a drooping face, draw your hands down to approximately shoulder level.

    Boy expresses sadness with American Sign Language.

  • Scared: Make loose fists with both hands; place one at shoulder level, the other just above hip level. While making a scared face, move your hands into the open-5 hand shape, wrists crossing each other quickly in front of your body as if you’re protecting your body from something scary.

    Girl uses sign language to show she is scared.

  • Safe: Cross your arms at your wrists, hands in S shapes, palms facing but not touching your body. Pull your hands apart while twisting palms to face away from your body, stopping at the shoulder area. Keep those S shapes.

    Girl signs she is safe in American Sign Language.

  • Sorry: Make a sad, apologetic face. With a hand in the ASL letter S shape, place your fist, palm facing your body, over your heart and make a circle.

    Little girl uses sign language to express she is sorry.