Why Can Some Wizards Cast Spells Without Saying Them? (Explained)

In the Harry Potter movies, you might have noticed that whilst some wizards and witches need to enunciate their spells out loud, others are able to simply ‘channel’ these spells in their minds without really having to utter the words. 

Seemingly, both produce the same results!

How can they do so, and is it more beneficial in practicality? Here’s what you need to know.

How can wizards cast spells without saying them out loud?

Nonverbal spells are cast without any spoken words exchanged between the spellcaster and the incantation. In the sixth year of academic study at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, students are taught nonverbal magic in the classes: 

  • Defence Against the Dark Arts
  • Charms
  • Transfiguration 

You can find out more about spells and the 4 other different terminologies here.

The whole aim is to be  able to cast spells without speaking them aloud and instead, channel them through intense focus.

Quora user @innfahrfilms states that “Only the really powerful magic users can do it. Saying the spell in their minds. Remember the wand is only the tool to focus the magic but it isn’t the source of the magic.

The magic is in their DNA their blood. They are magical beings and as Newt Scamander said, they have a ‘different physiology to Muggles’. They have stronger bodies.”

A vital example of their primary usage is the ‘element of surprise’ as can be observed in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. 

The sixth-years learned how to cast Nonverbal Spells from Severus Snape in his Defence Against the Dark Arts class, which involves saying the spell in your head but not aloud. The opponent won’t know what spell to block, so they are at an advantage in battle, however, they do take a bit of extra energy to cast. 

Several students in the book had difficulties learning how to ‘spell’ the incantation – except Hermione, obviously – and tried to cheat by murmuring their answers under their breath. 

Nonverbal spells can be further demonstrated in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (the movie) when Molly Weasley uses the Killing Curse on Bellatrix Lestrange without saying a word. 

Killing Curses emit green beams from the user’s wand (such as the infamous, Avada Kedavra), and stunning spells emit red beams (such as Stupefy).

Non-verbal spell casting theories from Hogwarts Is Here writer dictates that the skill can be segmented into 4 key areas.

Wand MovementThere would need to be a mental control on the magic, channelling it through the wand because you no longer have the physical representation of the spell to help focus it into the world.
WillpowerIt is claimed that it feels more natural to have a level of balance that makes the spell flow out of their wand more naturally.
IncantationEven though you are not vocalising the incantation, you are still using it. Therefore, your attempts at casting spells non-verbally involve “saying” the incantation in your head.
ConcentrationYou need to direct your mind more intensely to the desired effect of the spell you are casting, as you can no longer utilize language to assist in the physical manifestation of the magical energy.

Here are some noteworthy usages of the non-verbal spells:

#1 Newt Scamander

In Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them, Newt Scamander used a Summoning charm on an Occamy egg that was (at the time) in Jacob Kowalski‘s hand, which also caused Jacob to be summoned along with it.

Similarly, he also used a Mending Charm to clean up Jacob Kowalski’s apartment.

#2 Minerva McGonagall

In the Chamber Of Secrets, McGonagall used the Conjuring Spell to conjure a fan to “waft” petrified Nearly Headless Nick to the Hospital Wing.

#3 Remus Lupin

In the Prisoner Of Azkaban, Lupin Used the Door-opening Spell to open the cupboard containing the Boggart during the Gryffindor’s first defence lesson,

as well as the infamous Patronus Charm when defending off the Dementor aboard the Hogwarts Express.

You can find out more about why a Patronus is so hard to cast here.

#4 Albus Dumbledore

In the Half-Blood Prince, Dumbledore may have used a Fire-Making Spell combined with a Flame Freezing Charm, to demonstrate his magical ability to eleven-year-old Tom Riddle in a Muggle orphanage.

Both were used non-verbally.

Dumbledore also uses non-verbal magic in Order of the Phoenix when battling Voldemort, which will be further discussed in the next section.

Can Avada Kedavra be cast non-verbally?

Image credits: wizardingworld

Avada Kedavra, or the Killing Curse, was a tool of the Dark Arts and was one of the three Unforgivable Curses. When cast successfully on a living person or creature, the curse is described to “cause instantaneous and painless death, without causing any injury to the body, and without any trace of violence.”

Before I get into the details of this, let us observe the below excerpt from Dumbledore and Harry’s encounter with Voldemort in the Ministry Atrium, in the Order of the Phoenix:

“I have nothing more to say to you, Potter,” he (Voldemort) said quietly. “You have irked me too often, for too long. AVADA KEDAVRA!”

Harry had not even opened his mouth to resist; his mind was blank, his wand lay uselessly on the floor….

…. … (and then, Dumbledore appears and blocks this with the statue) …… And then he (Harry) breathed, “Dumbledore!”

Harry looked behind him, his heart pounding. Dumbledore was standing in front of the golden gates.

Voldemort raised his wand and another jet of green light streaked at Dumbledore, who turned and was gone in a whirling of his cloak.”

In the first instance, Voldemort clearly verbally announced the killing blow to Harry Potter. This was his form of establishing dominance and making Harry feel as insignificant and helpless at the moment as possible. As Harry lay weakly on the floor, there was no need for Voldemort to turn to the element of surprise. His victim (Harry) was already exposed and vulnerable (or so Voldemort thought). 

However, in a contrasting scenario occurring only moments after, when Dumbledore appeared, Voldemort clearly felt the threat Dumbledore would pose and therefore Voldemort “raised his wand and another jet of green light streaked at Dumbledore.”

As you can tell, the threat Voldemort felt was very real as he wanted to use every advantage possible against his opponent (Dumbledore) – and therefore, turned to ‘non-verbal’ casting to gain an upper vantage point using the element of surprise.

Whilst J. K. Rowling never explicitly confirmed this, based on the evidence, I can only speculate that yes, Avada Kedavra can be cast non-verbally.

Did Harry Potter learn non-verbal spells?

Image credits: Looper

Let us look at two instances where it is a stated fact that Harry has indeed used non-verbal spells.

Instance 1: “Pointing his wand at nothing in particular, he gave it an upward flick and said Levicorpus! inside his head.”

Instance 2: “He groped for the potion book and riffled through it in a panic, trying to find the right page; at last he located it and deciphered one cramped word underneath the spell: Praying that this was the counter-jinx, Harry thought Liberacorpus! with all of his might.

There was another flash of light, and Ron fell in a heap onto his mattress.”

Book excerpts of  Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince (Chapter 12, Silver and Opal).

Based on these instances alone, I can conclude that whilst Harry may not be an expert in the realm of non-verbal spell casting, he has developed enough of a strong-hold on this form of magic to channel his thoughts and emotions towards casting them nevertheless. 

You can find out whether a wand can be used by another wizard in this article here.

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Maariyah Bhari

For the love of written words, a cathartic release for me has always been writing. I have over 8 years of writing experience and two degrees in business.

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