My question is straightforward. Does the Sorting Hat speak only to the person wearing it, or to the Great Hall? Did all of the students hear it say,

"Not Slytherin, eh?"

when Harry used it?

  • 4
    Not a proper answer, but Harry does not hear the hat say anything to anyone else (in the books - not the case in the films). That seems to be a pretty good indicator that it only whispers so the person wearing it can hear, because it is unlikely it only spoke to one student.
    – sassie
    Commented Jan 14, 2015 at 19:12

3 Answers 3


The Sorting Hat can whisper.

"Not Slytherin, eh?" said the small voice. "Are you sure? ... Well, if you're sure---better be GRYFFINDOR!"

Harry heard the hat shout the last word to the whole hall.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. "The Sorting Hat;" emphasis added

So, the Sorting Hat holds conversations much like a normal person. It can modulate its voice for a personal remark or shout for the whole hall to hear.


I don't think it's ever clearly described. In the movies, at least, you can see the hat move its lips to shout 'Slytherin' etc. I'd assume if the hat were moving its lips whilst whispering (which I can't seem to find in the book at all, other than references to 'a small voice' in Harry's ear) people would notice. I've always assumed that the hat can telepathically communicate with the person it's placed on, because the person, in turn, doesn't whisper anything back, but think their answer.

So I guess my answer is it can do both: it can speak (sing the beginning song and shout the house), but it can also communicate by thought.

  • 11
    I had always assumed the Sorting Hat was talking directly into the mind of the person as well, such as the time when mentioned above, about when Harry went through the process. Then when the actual decision was made to place the young wizard/witch, the Sorting Hat then spoke out loud. This was what I'd garnered from the book. The movie had the lips moving while talking directly to Harry. I'm sure this was a process of showing the audience who was actually talking. Commented Jan 14, 2015 at 17:37
  • This was my interpretation always too. Whether or not the hat can whisper is certain - after all it speaks the house out loud and sings too. But does that mean the word 'voice' was literally out loud? I'm not convinced of that. And we know that it was Slytherin's Legilimency involved (Rowling confirmed this); so does that mean when Voldemort is implanting visions into Harry's mind Voldemort is truly talking to Harry? I don't know. Maybe he has to speak them but then how does he make Sirius appear if Sirius wasn't there?
    – Pryftan
    Commented Apr 17, 2018 at 21:06

He mutters aloud in your ear, then yells his final decision.

The Sorting Hat was muttering in Harry’s ear when he was discussing where to put him. He only yelled his final choice out loud for everyone else to hear, so no one else would have heard the rest of the discussion between them before Harry’s house was chosen but Harry.

“Every year, this aged old hat, patched, frayed and dirty, sorted new students into the four Hogwarts houses (Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw and Slytherin). Harry well remembered putting it on, exactly one year ago, and waiting, petrified, for its decision as it muttered aloud in his ear.”
- Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Chapter 5 (The Whomping Willow)

This also would be how the Hat handles every student’s Sorting. When Harry is paying attention to figure out how the Sorting works, he notices that the Hat takes different amounts of time before yelling out their house, but he doesn’t notice any talking before that. So no one else would have heard the Hat say “Not Slytherin, eh?” or anything after that until he yelled “GRYFFINDOR!”.

“Sometimes, Harry noticed, the hat shouted out the house at once, but at others it took a little while to decide. ‘Finnigan, Seamus’, the sandy-haired boy next to Harry in the line, sat on the stool for almost a whole minute before the hat declared him a Gryffindor.”
- Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, Chapter 7 (The Sorting Hat)

It seems very likely from what we know that the Sorting Hat has these muttered conversations with every student he sorts, and only yells when he’s chosen their house. This seems logical, so the students wouldn’t have the whole Great Hall hearing what the Sorting Hat thinks of them.

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