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In a PvP battle there is a level 20 sorcerer against a level 20 paladin. The sorcerer has counterspell. The level 20 paladin has command.

Level 20 paladins get command as a bonus action. Does this mean that they are able to slip it into normal conversation?

I am asking this one because the Player's Handbook says on page 203:

The words themselves aren’t the source of the spell’s power; rather, the particular combination of sounds, with specific pitch and resonance, sets the threads of magic in motion.

If a paladin must say the command word in a special pitch and resonance, would the sorcerer notice this and be able to cast counterspell on it? And if not, would the sorcerer be able to feel magic moving through The Weave and therefore be able to detect that the paladin was casting a spell?

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Short answer: Yes

Counterspell specifies this:

Casting Time: 1 reaction, which you take when you see a creature within 60 feet of you casting a spell.

On p.203, we get the following piece of information.

Unless a spell has a perceptible effect, a creature might not know it was targeted by a spell at all. an effect like crackling lightning is obvious, but a more subtle effect, such as an attempt to read a creature's thoughts, typically goes unnoticed unless a spell says otherwise.

Normally, this is where we'd fall into DM rulings on what it means to 'see' a spell. However, we have this lovely little tidbit from Jeremy Crawford's Sage Advice posts.

Q: If a Sorcerer casts a spell with only V and/or S components using Subtle Spell, can it be Counterspelled?

A: Subtle Spell is meant to protect a spell w/o material components from counterspell, since you can't see the casting.

https://twitter.com/JeremyECrawford/status/642086415040294912

As he is specifying that Subtle Spell is meant to protect a spell with Verbal and/or Somatic Components from being Counterspelled... then that means that the Verbal Aspect of any spell counts as 'seeing a spell being cast.'

As DM, if you wish to make this particularly subtle, perhaps you could call for an Arcana, Insight, or Perception Check to see if they recognize the spell in progress or not. Perhaps oppose it with a Charisma (Deception) check on the part of the Paladin, to see if he can distract the spellcaster from recognizing the spell.

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The verbal component of Command is separate from the actual one-word command given, and as such can be observed the same way as any other spell with a verbal component.

See this Sage Advice entry on Suggestion, which also equally applies to Command and its command word:

Is the sentence of suggestion in the suggestion spell the verbal component, or is the verbal component separate? Verbal components are mystic words (PH, 203), not normal speech. The spell’s suggestion is an intelligible utterance that is separate from the verbal component.

Since you can observe the caster saying the verbal components and can identify them as such (since they're unique mystic words, rather than common language), you should be able to Counterspell it.

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