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When Harry met Hagrid the first time in the Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, Hagrid does some magic spells without speaking, e.g. Dudley's pig tail or speeding up the paddling. In the books most of the students have big problems to cast spells non-verbally and Hagrid was expelled before he mastered school.

So why was Hagrid able to perform his spells non-verbally? Or did Rowling not define all the rules for her universe yet?

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    Didn't Harry also indirectly "cast spell non-verbally" without knowing? I remember reading in the book that he teleported on the roof of the school when he was getting bullied because he wanted to run away, and his hair magically grew back because he hated getting them cut. Edit: That was before knowing he was a sorcerer
    – Clockwork
    Nov 9 '20 at 10:25
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    I would think an even bigger question would be "Why can Hagrid even cast spells with a completely broken wand?"
    – MBEllis
    Nov 9 '20 at 11:02
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    @MBEllis Answered here and here.
    – F1Krazy
    Nov 9 '20 at 11:03
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    I always wondered if he did. The book doesn't indicate him saying anything, but Harry was still new to magic, so he wouldn't necessarily have noticed if Hagrid muttered something under his breath. Although wizards often shout important stuff, is any significant volume necessary? And with a sufficiently bushy beard, missing something barely vocalized could be easy.
    – K-H-W
    Nov 9 '20 at 23:27
29

I don't have any evidence from the book, but my logical assumption is that Hagrid taught himself how to do it.

  1. We see Hagrid casting non-verbal spells, so clearly he learned how to do it somewhere.
  2. It's been fifty years since his expulsion, so he's had plenty of time to teach himself.
  3. Since he's not supposed to do magic, he would want to learn non-verbal spells as they're more discreet (see also: his umbrella wand).
  4. Since he's not supposed to do magic, he probably can't go around asking people to teach him.

We do see that Hagrid isn't an expert at it, however. Making an oar move on its own, and igniting a fireplace (which Hagrid also does while at the shack), are pretty simple spells. However, when Hagrid tries to do something significantly harder - turning Dudley into a pig - all he can manage to do is give him a tail.

"Shouldn'ta lost me temper," he said ruefully, "but it didn't work anyway. Meant ter turn him into a pig, but I suppose he was so much like a pig anyway there wasn't much left to do."
Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, pg.48 (emphasis mine)

So I believe Hagrid taught himself how to do non-verbal magic, but only up to a certain level.

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    he's also a pretty talkative fellow (arguably better at having information extracted from him than in extracting information from others, but still^^) and surrounded by great wizards and witches in his friend/ally circle, who don't seem to consider him guilty of anything all too serious, so there are plenty chances to inquire for him or observe others at the least. Nov 9 '20 at 19:58
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    Another in-universe point is that we don't have a good sense of what makes magic easy or difficult to perform in HP. We have a selection of specific examples but not much detail. Even though students newly exposed to nonverbal spells seem to struggle at first, it's an expectation of students alongside their coursework. We also see most adult wizards and witches able to do at least some nonverbal magic. These suggest that it's not an intuitive skill, but nowhere near as difficult as learning a complex spell or earning an O.W.L.
    – Upper_Case
    Nov 9 '20 at 20:45
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    If you're in the film continuity, then not only is nonverbal magic relatively straightforward, but we even see some random wizard casually doing wandless magic. (Yes I know, HP wiki is unreliable, but they have a GIF of the actual scene in question, and I'm not aware of anyone else having written much about this specific individual.)
    – Kevin
    Nov 9 '20 at 23:49
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    For the love of Merlin, it's not wandless magic, it's a charmed spoon.
    – Exal
    Nov 10 '20 at 5:12
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    There is no spoon. Nov 11 '20 at 13:31
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JKR might not have fully fleshed out her spell system yet.

As far as I'm aware, the existence of nonverbal spells and especially the substantial rise in difficulty compared to verbal casting doesn't get explicitely established until the DADA lesson with Snape in book 6.

Severus Snape: "Now… you are, I believe, complete novices in the use of nonverbal spells. What is the advantage of a nonverbal spell? Very well — Miss Granger?"

Hermione Granger: "Your adversary has no warning about what kind of magic you're about to perform which gives you a split-second advantage."

Severus Snape: "An answer copied almost word for word from The Standard Book of Spells, Grade Six, but correct in essentials."

-- Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, from this wiki article

I think the most likely explanation for Hagrid casting nonverbal spells without batting an eye is that at book 1, JKR hasn't decided yet that this is a non-trivial thing to do.

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I am rather unsure myself. It could possibly be that he memorized the spells movements more than the words said to cast them which could be a possible learning disability on hagrid's side because it is shown in the books and movies that he is not extremely intelligent but rather more of an action-prone type of person than a deep thinker. What I've come to understand is he is a more physical learner than a verbal learner. And instead of remembering all the complicated language of the spells needed to be said he memorized the actions so that it would be easier on him and that way he can memorize spells through the actions in his wrist movements and the body memory rather than committing every single name of a spell to memory.

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    Hi, welcome to SF&F. You seem to be speculating here, instead of providing a definitive answer. Answers should be based on facts revealed in the books/movies or by their creators. For example, do you have a source for it being easier for him to memorize the gestures than the words?
    – DavidW
    Nov 9 '20 at 22:04
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    The one time I remember Hagrid verbally casting a spell is when his house gets set on fire in the fight at the end of the Half Blood Prince. It seems that Hagrid might indeed have some difficulty with remembering the names of spells, but this excerpt isn't very clear about that. "We should put out your house," said Harry, "the charm's Aguamenti ..." "Knew it was summat like that," mumbled Hagrid, and he raised a smoldering pink, flowery umbrella and said, "Aguamenti!"
    – Aldoggen
    Nov 10 '20 at 11:07

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