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The 5e D&D Basic Rules v0.1 description of casting times says that spells with a casting time of "bonus action" require a bonus action to cast (p. 79, emphasis mine):

Most spells require a single action to cast, but some spells require a bonus action, a reaction, or much more time to cast.

Bonus Action

A spell cast with a bonus action is especially swift. You must use a bonus action on your turn to cast the spell, provided that you haven't already taken a bonus action this turn. You can't cast another spell during the same turn, except for a cantrip with a casting time of 1 action.

It's pretty clear that bonus actions aren't automatic (p. 69):

You can take a bonus action only when a special ability, spell, or other feature of the game states that you can do something as a bonus action. You otherwise don't have a bonus action to take.

So to cast a spell like Healing Word (p. 93), do I

  • need to be granted a bonus action that I can use, or do I
  • have a bonus action I can use?

I guess I'm unclear on whether I need to have a bonus action before I can spend it on something, or whether having an ability, spell, or whatnot that can be done as a bonus action grants me the bonus action I need to use it.

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up vote 22 down vote accepted

The way bonus actions work is:

  1. You can't take more than one bonus action per turn
  2. If using an ability is a bonus action, you can do it (bearing in mind #1)

So bonus actions aren't something you have or are granted — they are something you do up to a limit of one. Casting the spell is itself doing or taking the bonus action. Anything that is a bonus action means "you can do this on your turn, as a bonus, if you haven't already done some other bonus-type action."

D&D Basic Rules v0.1, page 69 (emphasis mine):

Various class features, spells, and other abilities let you take an additional action on your turn called a bonus action.

You never need something else to give you a bonus action before you can take a bonus action. It is only a description of the type of action it is when you do that thing. It's not a point or expendable that you collect first, and then spend. It's a type of action.

So smoke em' if you've got em'!

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A helpful analogy for Pathfinder players is that bonus actions are just swift actions. The only difference is that you don't have one until you get an ability that says you can use it as a swift action. – Lucas Leblanc Oct 12 '15 at 21:45


Basically, if you have Healing Word memorized, and have a spell slot open, you can cast it.

Bonus actions can only be taken if you have something that allows them (class feature, spell etc). In this case, you have a spell that can be cast as a bonus action, so you can take your bonus action to cast the spell.

In other words, nothing has to allow you to receive a bonus action. You have to have something that can use one to be able to use it.

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