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From my memory of the last Harry Potter movie I saw, I've seen many wizards cast spells without saying the spell at all. During the final battle in Hogwarts, many wizards just swung their wands and their enemies were knocked out. I am 100% sure about this!

The most remarkable spells were the ones that emit a green or red beam in the final battle of Harry Potter against Voldemort when they pushed their beams towards each other.

So, the question is, are they cheating? Because, unless there are wordless spells, they must say the words for a spell.

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    Did you read the 5th book? All the 5th years learned to cast spells without saying the incantations. – OghmaOsiris Jul 20 '11 at 3:11
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    There ARE wordless spells. It's an advanced technique that's pretty much EXPLICITLY STATED to be useful in wizard duels, so your opponent has less time to guess your spell and react. – Jeff Jul 20 '11 at 12:11
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    @OghmaOsiris: That's actually book 6, so... – PearsonArtPhoto Jul 20 '11 at 19:17
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    @personartphoto I know I realised it too late and I can't edit my comment, lol – OghmaOsiris Jul 20 '11 at 19:18
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    There was some mention (in Order of the Phoenix, I believe) about them being able to throw around raw magical energy without it actually being "focused" into a spell with a specific intended outcome. Much of the magical combat seems to degrade to this, much like bar fights turning into wrestling matches. – Toby Jul 27 '11 at 14:34
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I assume that the filmmakers wrote the dialogue that way for dramatic effect. My impression was that they had the characters say the words almost all the time, but that in most fight scenes they skipped out on most of the incantations in order to focus more audience attention on the action. For example, in the book version of the final fight between Harry and Voldemort, Voldemort uses the Killing Curse while Harry casts a Disarming Charm. In the movie, the first detail can be presumed while the second one makes no sense in context (in the book, Harry gave Voldemort a last shot at redemption, and it was thought of as his signature dueling spell), so the scriptwriters dropped it.

The movies, as far as I can remember, completely passed over the idea of casting spells without saying the words.

EDIT: Yes, this was done in the fifth or sixth book and afterwards. But they never covered that in the movies, so for a movie-only audience the ability doesn't exist. There were also combats where Harry would say one or two spells and not the rest. This really stood out for me in the fight scene at the end of movie 5.

  • In Prisoner of Azkaban, Harry inflates Aunt Marge without saying a word. He also broke the glass she was holding - again no incantation. – bobbyalex Jul 2 '17 at 7:07
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In the books, casting spells without words is a skill introduced in the 6th book that requires more effort than casting it normally. The movie just glossed over this.

As regards the "cheating" part, the primary goal of these verbal spells is to yield a momentary advantage in a duel due to the surprise. So, in a sense, yes it's cheating but as they say - all's fair in love and war.

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    This would work, except they do this from the 5th movie, before any of the young wizards learned how to do it. – PearsonArtPhoto Jul 20 '11 at 14:55
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    It explained why people like Voldemort could cast spells at a young age without any wand or understanding of what words are required. And from a practical reason, would have been rather silly if the final battle would have been hundreds of Death Eaters and Hogwart students yelling spells at the top of their lungs. – Neil Jul 21 '11 at 11:20
  • @Neil:In the books they ssay that the magic done by young wizards without a wand is due to emotions, and they cannot control it. (Voldy was an exception). Verbal spells, on the other hand, still require a wand. – apoorv020 Jul 22 '11 at 10:12
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    I interpreted more like young magicians powerful enough to do magic without a wand do so without any discipline and usually spurred on by an emotional response. It'd be like the difference between trying to cut a piece of wood with a measuring stick and saw as opposed to doing the same thing with a sledgehammer. In both cases the wood is divided, though in one case, the wood is separated with more precision and with less energy, and in the other an example of undisciplined usage. – Neil Jul 22 '11 at 10:28
  • @apoorv020 - Verbal spells do not always require a wand. Dumbledore saves Harry from falling to his death after the dementors knock him off his broomstick during the quiditch match with "Arresto Momentum" sans wand. – CarpeNoctum Nov 4 '13 at 23:53
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In Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Sixth-Years were taught by Severus Snape in his Defense Against the Dark Arts class how to perform Nonverbal Spells, which are spells cast by saying the incantation in your head but not aloud. These are an advantage in battle because the opponent won't know what spell to block, but they do take a bit more effort to perform. In the book, several students were finding difficulty learning how to do it - except Hermione, of course - and they tried to cheat by muttering the incantation under their breath. A specific example of using a nonverbal spell would be in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (the movie) where Molly Weasley goes up against Bellatrix Lestrange and uses the killing curse, but does not say it aloud. The killing curse emits a green beam from the user's wand, and a stunning spell, such as Stupefy, emits a red beam.

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It's explained in Book 6 that, when a wizard attains a certain level of mastery of magic, they can cast spells without the words. The words, and even the wand, are simply focal points for the magic the wizard wishes to channel. Much like immature wizards can do magical things without words or a wand without meaning to, a skilled wizard can do magical things without words or even a wand, but intentionally. At Hogwarts, students are expected to begin learning how to cast spells nonverbally in their sixth year after passing their OWLs, and are expected to have mastered them if taking their NEWTs in their seventh year.

It is also explained that often a nonverbal form of the spell is less powerful than one cast verbally. This is seen in Book 5 when a Death Eater is silenced by Hermione but still manages to disable her. The spell, according to the Hogwarts nurse, was less effective because it lacked the verbal component, but still caused "quite enough damage to be getting on with". It might have killed her outright had it been cast verbally. It's unclear if this is always true, or if a nonverbal spell can be made to be as powerful as its verbal counterpart with focus and practice. Certainly in most cases if it's good enough it doesn't make much difference.

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