(My question was inspired by this question: Can the Ghostwise Halfling's Silent Speech be used to telepathically intimidate using growls?)

The ghostwise halfling, a halfling subrace in the Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide (p. 110), has the racial trait Silent Speech:

You can speak telepathically to any creature within 30 feet of you. The creature understands you only if the two of you share a language. You can speak telepathically in this way to one creature at a time.

I'm curious about a specific interaction with the spell speak with animals:

You gain the ability to comprehend and verbally communicate with beasts for the duration. The knowledge and awareness of many beasts is limited by their intelligence, but at minimum, beasts can give you information about nearby locations and monsters, including whatever they can perceive or have perceived within the past day.

Would a ghostwise halfling under the effects of speak with animals be able to telepathically communicate with an animal using Silent Speech?


3 Answers 3


RAI, yes

While @Icyfire has the RAW perspective perfectly explained, I strongly believe the RAI would disagree:

As I argued in this answer though a very conservative interpretation of Silent Speech could argue that "Speak with Animals" is not technically a language and so Silent Speech still wouldn't work, I'd say RAI goes the other way around. Since

You might be able to persuade a beast to perform a small favor for you

I'd say that making Speaks with Animals insufficient for Silent Speech is a bit absurd. Sage Advice agrees on this point when talking about Command, that also requires the creature to understand your language:

Iain A. Phillips: @JeremyECrawford does casting Speak with Animals allow you to cast spells like Command or Suggestion on beasts? #DnD

Jeremy Crawford: Yes.

Relevant text for Command:

The spell has no effect [...] if [the creature] doesn't understand your language

So while not a strict RAW reading, "comprehend and verbally communicate" seem to be RAI for "share a language with", as far as Sage advice is concerned.


No, you cannot telepathically speak with animals

I'm using this phrase in particular:

The creature understands you only if the two of you share a language.

Strictly speaking, beasts in the MM do not have a language (they are listed as "Languages ---"). Thus, it's not possible to share a language.

However, as @Miniman points out, there are a few beasts that have languages, such as the Giant Owl. While I still think that the above interpretation still technically applies, it's also reasonable for a DM to extrapolate from verbal communication to shared language.

You might argue that "verbally communicate" means language, but there are many real-world cases of animal interaction that involve verbal communication that are not language. For example, you are arguably communicating verbally when speaking to a trained dog: you can tell it to sit, roll over, etc., and the dog will react, but such communications are decidedly not language. Likewise, it's possible for two people who speak different languages to have a semi-verbal communication without necessarily sharing a language (as many international travelers can attest to).

As a comparison, the Speak With Plants spell states,

If a plant creature is in the area, you can communicate with it as if you shared a common language...

Which bypasses the need to actually share a language. If Speak with Animals worked this way, it would say so as well.

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Good answer, although it might be worth making some provisions for the animals who do have languages. (Giant Owl, Giant Eagle, etc.) \$\endgroup\$
    – Miniman
    Jan 25, 2018 at 2:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ They could show images, thought patterns, etc. There's a lot of things that can be shown in your mind's eye other than words that would indicate locations and monsters. \$\endgroup\$
    – Baron
    Jan 25, 2018 at 2:29
  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ @Miniman, I think that you still technically don't share a language, but it's definitely a reasonable DM ruling to say that that works. Rubiksmoose, I think that you can still draw a comparison to a trained animal--a dog that can bark when it smells a bomb or something is "verbal" but not language. The magic just lets you understand all of that without having to do the training, in my interpretation. \$\endgroup\$
    – Icyfire
    Jan 25, 2018 at 2:43
  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ @Icyfire Oh, I agree (unless you somehow learn one of those languages). Just figured it was worth pointing out that not every animal is languageless. \$\endgroup\$
    – Miniman
    Jan 25, 2018 at 2:58
  • 5
    \$\begingroup\$ It's worth noting that Jeremy Crawford has stated that Speak with Animals lets you use spells like Command or Suggestion (but those spells don't require that you "share a language", only that the creature understand you): sageadvice.eu/2017/11/13/… \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Jan 25, 2018 at 5:45


I would say that having "the ability to comprehend and verbally communicate" with a being qualifies as "sharing a language" for all intents and purposes, including this one.


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