26

In The Goblet of Fire, when Harry, upon taking Cedric's hint, goes to the prefects' bathroom, he spends a few minutes admiring the place and then does a few laps in the tub (which was apparently as large as a swimming pool). Later on, when he figures out what he needs to rescue, he gets disheartened, because apparently the Dursleys never took him to swimming lessons.

So, which is true? Can he or can he not swim?

  • 37
    Like most things in life, "knowing how to swim" is not a black and white thing. You don't go straight from "has never been in a body of water larger than a puddle" to "Michael Phelps", with nothing in between. – Martha Feb 13 at 19:24
  • 13
    I'd be surprised if the tub, no matter how long and wide it is, were so deep that he couldn't stand in it with his head above the water. – chepner Feb 14 at 14:16
  • 6
    I’m also guessing that the Dursleys would go to the pool with Dudley amd Harry, get Dudley lessons, and let Harry try to drown. – Daniel B Feb 14 at 18:11
  • 2
    I've known how to swim since I was 2 and have no problem going into any kind of water. What I don't know how to do (or at least, I haven't done it much and am not good at it at all) is dive down deep and stay there. The human body is very bouyant. Swimming deep is a skill that takes practice to develop. – user91988 Feb 14 at 21:23
87

He can't swim... very well.

But he suddenly realised what he was saying, and he felt the excitement drain out of him as though someone had just pulled a plug in his stomach. He wasn’t a very good swimmer; he’d never had much practice. Dudley had had lessons in their youth, but Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon, no doubt hoping that Harry would drown one day, hadn’t bothered to give him any. A couple of lengths of this bath was all very well, but that lake was very large, and very deep … and merpeople would surely live right at the bottom …

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Having gone to a British primary school, it's likely he would have had a few lessons as part of his normal class activities, but only enough to prevent casual drowning.


In later books he seems to have no trouble swimming in open water.

And with the sudden agility of a much younger man, Dumbledore slid from the boulder, landed in the sea and began to swim, with a perfect breaststroke, towards the dark slit in the rock face, his lit wand held in his teeth. Harry pulled off his Cloak, stuffed it into his pocket and followed.

The water was icy; Harry’s waterlogged clothes billowed around him and weighed him down. Taking deep breaths that filled his nostrils with the tang of salt and seaweed, he struck out for the shimmering, shrinking light now moving deeper into the cliff.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

  • 8
    His time in primary school was entirely before they were required to provide swimming lessons (that was 1994), but I agree that he likely did have lessons, given that he can swim to some degree. – user3482749 Feb 14 at 14:34
  • 9
    Perhaps it's a British-ism, but I'm not sure what you mean by 'casual' with regard to drowning. – TylerH Feb 14 at 14:40
  • 18
    @TylerH - 'casual' drowning would be drowning that's easily avoided by even a tiny amount of exposure to swimming, such as in a placid lake or a swimming pool without a lifeguard. It means "You can swim well enough that you aren't at risk of drowning in otherwise calm water." – Jeff Feb 14 at 15:20
  • 42
    @TylerH in the UK we still have formal drownings where young women are taken to lakes, ponds and streams to be formally tested. No amount of lessons can save you from that unless you weigh the same as a duck. (/s) – MD-Tech Feb 14 at 16:01
  • 12
    Definitely no one wants to be a filthy casual at drowning. Hardcore competitive drowning is where it's at. – Nomenator Feb 15 at 4:53

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.