There are many wizards and witches in Harry Potter's universe. Some of them are very powerful, while some of them you might say are weak. But what differentiates their magical power? It seems as long as you say the incantation properly, you would surely succeed in casting the spell.

So how does a stranger/new person to the magical world know Voldemort is stronger than, say... Ron Weasley?


3 Answers 3


Pronunciation of a spell is just a tool to help young wizards and witches learn how to control their powers. Spells do not require speaking, and most of the powerful magic is down without speaking. And most spells require emotional or other components as well, not just the words. The way you move the wand. What you are thinking. Your conviction. In the fourth book, Professor Moody tells the students in his Defense Against the Dark Arts class that:

Avada Kedavra's a curse that needs a powerful bit of magic behind it — you could all get your wands out and point them at me and say the words, and I doubt I'd get so much as a nosebleed.

Later when Bellatrix kills Siruis, Voldemort taunts Harry.

In the books, Bellatrix tells Harry he has to want the Cruciatis curse to inflict pain for it to work well.

That said, Magic in Harry Potter is a combination of natural talent, practice, and raw magical capability, just like any other skill in real life. Just cause you can speak doesn't mean you speak well. Just cause you can run doesn't mean you will succeed in a marathon or race.

As to how a stranger can tell the difference between a weak and strong wizard, it's really up to being shown the difference. Aside from the typical correlation of age to power, you can't tell a wizard's talents just by looking at them. (Young wizards tend to be less powerful than adult wizards.)

The most powerful wizards are able to do wandless magic.

  • So, all adults wizard have same power, access to spell, etc. Basically, are they equal?
    – ashura91
    Commented Dec 21, 2016 at 3:19
  • 1
    @ashura91 no more than all adults have the same ability to run fast. Some adults can't run at all, some run okay, and some win gold medals. Like I said, it's a combination of natural talent, practice and raw capability. Like drawing. If you don't have the talent to draw, you can practice all you want but you won't be the best. If you have no imagination, you can still have talent but can't use it effectively. In Harry Potter, a wizard with talent that hasn't learned anything won't be good, and a wizard that reads everything but no talent won't be either.
    – cde
    Commented Dec 21, 2016 at 3:22
  • 1
    So, It's all about talent. Are there any references about this on the book? Magic power regarding talents.
    – ashura91
    Commented Dec 21, 2016 at 3:30

Magic is something that flows inside all the wizards and witches. Hogwarts or any other place doesn't teach you magic. It teaches you to enhance your abilities and to channel them well.

There are examples throughout the series regarding the same -

  • Whenever any character undergoes some emotional trauma, their patronus changes. A patronus is a guardian that you conjure from your happiness to fight the darkness and misery dementers induce. When your patronus changes form, it is evident that you relate your happiness and safety with someone/something else now.
  • Merope Riddle (nee Gaunt) was a descendant of one of the founders of Hogwarts. Her brother and father were brilliant at magic and not to magic - even brilliant at twisting magic to make their ends meet. Yet, she wasn't able to perform magic well. She was good at following instructions to brew potions or was good at potions, though.
  • If it was just something you could learn - Filch was in HOGWARTS for years and yet he subscribed to some outside help to learn Magic. He could have eavesdropped to the classes or asked teachers for help and could have learned, if only it were possible.

It is clearly mentioned - a wand is only as powerful as the wizard himself. The same holds true in case of spells. You may know all the spells you can remember but it wont make you excel at magic.

What I think really matters -

  1. The will to perform an action. I am not sure if Merope was good at potions in general. I believe that she really wanted Tom Riddle to like her and so she could cook the love potion.
  2. Channeling your will - remember, during practicing the summoning charm for a long time, Harry couldn't get his firebolt and he was uncertain if he would be able to do the bit of magic on the field for the triwizard tournament task 1. Yet once he was there, he knew that he needed to do it to save his life and so he succeeded to summon his firebolt from the castle to the grounds.
  3. Understanding magic - even though the first two points are sufficient in most cases, yet, understanding your actions and repercussions are important. Voldemort used the killing curse on Harry thrice and yet, he ended up a part of his own soul each time. Even though he wanted to kill Harry and did the spell correctly and channelled his magic well - there was a reverse effect. Once you get to the brilliance level of Voldemort (yes, he was a brilliant wizard and there is no denying this) or Dumbledore and others, you need to understand that your actions, though simple to you, may be not so simple finally.

Coming to a little example you sited - I think Ron Weasley knew more magic during starting Hogwarts than Voldemort. Yet, when the two passed out, the tables had turned. Simply because Voldemort was curious and wanted to do it. He wanted to prove he was different, special and powerful. Ron was born a wizard and knew it. So magic was obvious to him. He wanted to do better than his brothers and in a way he did contribute majorly in ending the second wizarding war.

So - as I believe, it matters what you really want.

Hope it answers your question.

  • Very nice. +1 and welcome to Movies & TV.
    – A J
    Commented Jun 1, 2017 at 5:48

There appears to be a high correlation between magical power with mixing magical and muggle blood. This is a common theme throughout the movies and books. Hermione and Snape are examples of powerful wizards who are half-bloods.

The magical powers of witches and wizards ranges from nothing to “best in the world”:

  • We have muggles who are not allowed to circulate in magical circles – for the most part.

  • Then we have Squibs who are children of magical parents that have no magical power themselves, like Mr. Filch.

  • We have late bloomers like Neville Longbottom. In the books, he had to be frightened into his first use of magic.

  • We have everyone in between. Then we get to powerful wizards like Voldemort and Grindelwald.

  • Then we have Professor Dumbledore who is in a class by himself. This wizard is a genius in mind – where most wizards fall clumsily short. But he is also quite powerful: He is a match for Voldemort and he beat Grindelwald while he was using the Elder Wand.

The above describes traits you are mostly born with. But there are other factors:

  • Age and maturity. You need to learn patience and control in order for it to work well.
  • Education. That’s why Hogwarts exists – to learn technique.
  • Your wand. If you use a mismatched wand, you get worse results. Note that a powerful wizard will NOT even need a wand.

All of the above will show anyone, including strangers, who is who regarding magical abilities.

  • Reread the question. The only relevant thing you put on there is the last part, and even that seems to have a typo in it.
    – cde
    Commented Dec 21, 2016 at 3:15
  • Italics doesn't fix the problem of you not answering the question...
    – cde
    Commented Dec 21, 2016 at 3:24
  • Pureblood better than Half blood in term of pure magic power?
    – ashura91
    Commented Dec 21, 2016 at 3:33
  • Actually, the opposite. Voldemort's mother and her relatives were from pure blood, and they had severe problems. Voldemort is a half-blood, and that seems to be a big reason why he become extremely powerful -- as one of the last of the Slytherin blood line.
    – John
    Commented Dec 21, 2016 at 3:36
  • There is zero indication in any of the movie or books that blood purity has any influence on magical ability. Relating magical ability to blood purity is literally what the book vilifies. Also, Hermione is not a half-blood, she is a muggle-born.
    – Paul
    Commented Dec 22, 2016 at 16:30

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