Let's say we have a spy that has been True Polymorphed into a sheep (to blend in, obviously). The spy originally knew Common + some other languages. As a sheep, though, she can only bleat.

True Polymorph includes in the description (emphasis mine):

The target's game statistics, including mental ability scores, are replaced by the statistics of the new form. It retains its alignment and personality.


The creature is limited in the actions it can perform by the nature of its new form, and it can't speak, cast spells, or take any other action that requires hands or speech, unless its new form is capable of such actions.

Let's further say that the sheep is spying on some cultists at the local farm. One of the cultists is speaking a language that the spy did not originally know and has cast Tongues on himself to communicate with his bretheren.

Tongues says (emphasis mine):

This spell grants the creature you touch the ability to understand any spoken language it hears. Moreover, when the target speaks, any creature that knows at least one language and can hear the target understands what it says.

Assuming our woolly friend is close enough to hear, does she know what's being said?

More specifically: Can a creature that knows a language, after having been polymorphed into a beast, understand or speak any language at all (Sheep, Cow, Pig, etc.), such that it could understand someone speaking under the effect of Tongues?


3 Answers 3


No. Languages are part of the game stats replaced by true polymorph

The target's game statistics, including mental ability scores, are replaced by the statistics of the new form. It retains its alignment and personality.

Language is a part of the stat block of a creature, and those are replaced by true polymorph. Unless the new form has the language in its stat block, tongues won't allow it to do so. If the form was something like a tressym it would understand Common, but not speak it.

  • \$\begingroup\$ For further support you could reference this question or even copy over the section on Monster Statistics \$\endgroup\$ Jan 2, 2020 at 19:19
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    \$\begingroup\$ I can see why your answer is correct but it doesn't take the step to explain how we know languages are part of a stat block. If you included that, I could accept this answer \$\endgroup\$ Jan 2, 2020 at 19:25
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    \$\begingroup\$ @G.Moylan seems almost too structural to reference, like knowing dexterity is in the stat block, but sure. Links added to where language and monster stat blocks are defined. \$\endgroup\$
    – GcL
    Jan 2, 2020 at 21:11
  • \$\begingroup\$ I understand why the answer is "no" for beasts that don't know languages, like sheep. But then you bring up beasts that understand languages, like tressym and it's unclear to me how that fits in. Does the tressym understand when a creature targeted by tongues speaks in a language other than common? \$\endgroup\$
    – Ruse
    Jan 3, 2020 at 15:20
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Ruse The creature must know at least one language to understand what is said with tongues, per the spell description. In the case of a Tressym, it knows common (understood only), so it will understand anything said with tongues, while a creature with no languages in its stat block will not understand any language, whether it was spoken with tongues or not. \$\endgroup\$ Jan 3, 2020 at 21:58

Polymorph doesn't say that the target loses the ability to understand any languages they previously knew, only that they lose the ability to speak those languages. Presumably the spy can still understand Common in sheep form. Therefore due to the effect of Tongues they should be able to understand anything spoken by the target of Tongues.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Welcome! You can take the tour as an introduction to the site and check the help center if you need further guidance. Good luck and happy gaming! \$\endgroup\$
    – Sdjz
    Jul 15, 2019 at 14:56
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    \$\begingroup\$ The spell doesn't explicitly state that the target loses the ability to uderstand any languages, but it does say that the target's game statistics are replaced by the statistics of the new form. Language proficiencies are part of a creature's game statistics. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 16, 2019 at 9:42

They should be able to understand.

Polymorph says that the target can't speak. I didn't say that you couldn't understand your previous languages. Now tongues says and I quote: "any creature that knows at least one language-" so because polymorph didn't change the spy's understanding of languages, just the ability to speak, the spy/sheep still knows at least one language. Therefore, as long as the sheep can hear the cultists, they should be able to understand said language.


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