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In the Harry Potter books, professors of Hogwarts always seem to know what House their pupils are in. I don't see how professors can distinguish each of the students by their Houses, because I don't think they are ever given any sort of different attires or anything in the books. I suppose that the Heads of Houses might know what House their students are in, but I don't get how professors can tell every single student apart by their House. How do they do this?

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  • Someone can surely build an answer from this... (1) Despite varying estimates, Hogwarts is still a small school -- my HS was at least 3 times larger, it would take only a week or two to be familiarized with the student body, less is we can (rightly) assume teachers have a good idea of who their new students are before the year starts, let alone already knowing the returning students; (2) traditional British schools have uniforms, that is a given -- the books do make passing mention, but spend little on cultural givens; (3) teachers Harry meets and interact heavily with...
    – Dúthomhas
    May 13, 2020 at 20:37
  • ...other houses' students -- little time is given to teachers who don't (for which Harry's POV tells us nothing) or who don't care, like Binns.
    – Dúthomhas
    May 13, 2020 at 20:39
  • Without reading through the books again to check, each house has it's own variant of the school uniform (at least in the films - don't know about the books) May 14, 2020 at 1:06
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    @SpacePhoenix the only dress I think that is explicitly mentioned in the books is quidditch robes. Other than that, Harry's letter says black robes for uniform, and they get them before they are sorted. May 15, 2020 at 19:25

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They recognise them

Some detailed analysis at How many students attended Hogwarts? produces a final result of "we have no idea, blame JKR's bad maths", but it's somewhere on the order of a few hundred students. That seems a low enough number for professors to recognise them individually one by one.

Some teachers, like McGonagall and Snape, are Heads of Houses, so they'd be expected to know at least all of the students in their own House. But even for ordinary teachers without special administrative roles, it's not too much of a stretch to expect them to recognise all their students individually and know their names and which House they were in. People in such jobs in real life do that all the time.

The teachers do seem to know their students' names, at least most of the time, so surely they could easily remember a House affiliation as well as a name for each face in front of them.

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    Also, all of their classes, at least in the lower years, are by house, or at most two houses. (Combined Potions with Slytherins, Transfiguration is just Griffindors, etc.) So the teachers only ever meet their students in the context of which house they're in.
    – Martha
    May 13, 2020 at 20:58
  • This is not the correct answer. The other answer is correct because students wore their house colors in their uniforms.
    – user89104
    May 17, 2020 at 5:24
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    @LincolnMan Nobody's yet provided an actual reliable source to show that that's true.
    – Rand al'Thor
    May 17, 2020 at 7:48
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    Remember too, that it's only the new first years that have to be memorized each year - the rest of the students don't change house. There is a very big production made out of identifying who is in each house - all students, faculty and staff are present for this. The 1st linked Q puts an upper limit of 1000 students across 7 years. That's about 143 students/class, about 35 new 1st years per house. At the low end of 280 students, that's only 40/class, and 10 new 1st years per house. Doesn't take long to remember up to 140 student names & faces, even if you're a very poor teacher.
    – FreeMan
    May 19, 2020 at 17:25
  • @FreeMan well, except for the Defense Against the Dark Arts teachers; that would be rough!
    – Giuseppe
    Jun 3, 2020 at 21:20
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It appears that part of the required uniform includes clothing items that will match the house colors such as a tie or blazer in those colors. According to the wiki article I found the item has changed over the years.

It also seems to be supported in Chamber of Secrets where after using the polyjuice potion they also took the uniforms to complete the look.

https://harrypotter.fandom.com/wiki/Hogwarts_uniform

It could also be part of the name tag that is listed on the school supplies list that every first year student gets and is told to wear as part of the uniform.

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    Is there any reliable source for this being the case in the books? HP Wikia/Fandom site is a notoriously poor source of information.
    – Rand al'Thor
    May 17, 2020 at 13:47
  • I haven't seen any but the first book does list as part of the school supplies list mentioned that name tags where required and they needed the robes in addition to the polyujuice potion to get into the slyhtern common room. I didn't know that was considered an unreliable source of information
    – Joe W
    May 17, 2020 at 14:49
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    @JoeW They needed different robes because Crabbe and Goyle are significantly bigger than Harry and Ron, not because there's anything special about robes for different houses. May 17, 2020 at 16:19
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It's a relatively small student population; the professors who have house affiliations (sort of the deans) probably have no trouble remembering everyone once they are in their 2nd or 3rd year. Also classe schedules are partially coordinated by house. And most likely some sort of identifying characteristic of the students' robes. I'm sure they have copies of the student rosters also lol.

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Every teacher has a class roster, and the roster doubtlessly includes each student's house. Simply dealing with them day in and day out will be enough to learn the house of every student they regularly deal with.

When I was in the military, after nine months working in the orderly room, I knew the first name, last name, rank, and office extension of all 300+ people in my unit, and later when I taught ninth grade I learned the names of 150+ students in the first month. (I did have two sets of identical twins whom I could never tell apart.)

It's not hard to learn things like this.

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  • You were in the military (thanks for serving!) and you knew people's first names??? My son's been in 7 years and knows the first names of about 4 of his closest buddies, max! I agree w/the teacher sentiment 100% - my wife taught for 20 years, doesn't take long to recognize faces, especially when you have magical, moving pictures of each student.
    – FreeMan
    Jul 11, 2020 at 16:26
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    I remembered the names because at times I had to enter them into some database or another. Among other things I was in charge of the weight management program and had a database with everyone's name, height, and weight. I've forgotten almost all of it (it's been over thirty years). I don't remember most of my student's names either. The well-behaved ones were the first to be forgotten. It was a stressful seven months.
    – EvilSnack
    Jul 11, 2020 at 16:45
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Real life example: I attended a Canadian Forces military college. The cadets were divided into seven squadrons. In the first year, there were approximately 30 cadets per squadron for the main 6 (7th Squadron was a smaller one due to the building they lived in). It worked out to about 200 cadets in their first year. Then there were four more classes ahead of them (with fewer cadets in each), but still, several hundred. Being military, the uniforms were identical save for the small squadron flashes and position/rank insignia, so at a glance, even though the majority of the uniform was identical, you could tell what sqaudron someone was in, their year, and their position (rank, more or less). So it doesn't take much, at Hogwarts merely a small variation such as different ties or piping on the gowns would be more than sufficient.

Second thing, some uniforms, in civilian clothes, or PT gear, or college sports uniforms, there were no squadron insignia, but by the time a few months were in everyone in my class recognized what squadron another cadet belonged to simply by recognizing them. We might not remember their name, but we knew what squadron they belonged to.

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