In "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone", out of the whole class, Hermione is the only one who can levitate a feather. Also, in "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix", Dumbledore's Army is practicing various spells, many of them failing again and again.

If they're wizards and witches, if magic is a part of their being, then why do they have to try so many times before they can successfully cast a spell?

  • 2
    Most spells take focus and practice. Like learning to throw an object and hit a target everytime. Initially you might not hit the target at all, after practice you hit it consistently. Oct 12, 2017 at 16:45
  • Because it's pronounced It's Levi-o-sa, not Levio-sar.
    – Valorum
    Oct 12, 2017 at 19:49

1 Answer 1


In the case of book 1 and Flitwick's Charms class - they are essentially learning a new language - a language with an emphasis on tone and inflection - much like Mandarin Chinese.

For example - from book 1:

"And saying the magic words properly is very important too - never forget Wizard Baruffio, who said 's' instead of 'f' and found himself on the floor with a buffalo on his chest." [Flitwick]

'You're saying it wrong', Harry heard Hermione snap. 'It's Wing-gar-dium Levi-o-sa, make the 'gar' nice and long'

Consider the word 'ma' in Mandarin:

By saying the two letters 'ma' together with varying inflection, you get 5 different meanings:

Mother - High and level - 1st tone

To bother - Rising from middle to high - 2nd tone

Horse - First falling then rising - 3rd tone

To scold - Falling from high - 4th tone

ma An interrogative particle - Brief and soft - Neutral

source - http://www.learnnc.org/lp/editions/mandarin1/4480

To anyone unfamiliar with the tonal language, somebody saying 'ma' with any of the 5 inflections may not notice the difference and just hear 'ma' but to somebody with an understanding of the language, there are distinct differences in meaning.

The same principle can clearly be applied to charms work given both Hermione and Flitwick's statements. It isn't enough to just say the words, you have to say them correctly. Factor in regional dialects (Seamus Finnigan comes to mind ;), possible speech or physical defects (tongue-tied, dental issues, etc...) and one can suppose that 11 year-olds may not get things perfectly the first or second time

  • Some spells need a special movement of the wand in addition to the words being said correctly.. Would you add just that one sentence before your quote from the book "Now, don't forget that nice wrist movement we've been practicing!" squeaked Professor Flitwick, perched on top of his pile of books as usual. "Swish and flick, remember, swish and flick. And saying the magic words properly is very important, too..."
    – Tode
    Oct 13, 2017 at 7:21

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