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There are a couple of spells which explicitly work only when the target "can hear you":

  • Suggestion — "a creature you can see within range that can hear and understand you"
  • Compulsion — "Creatures of your choice that you can see within range and that can hear you"
  • Animal Friendship — "a beast that you can see within range. It must see and hear you"
  • Vicious Mockery — "If the target can hear you"

However, Command has no such requirement. The only requirements are:

  1. the target must understand the caster's language
  2. the target must not be undead
  3. the command must not cause direct harm to the target

Does this mean the spell still works if the target hasn't heard the command word itself? Assuming the 60ft distance, this seems very plausible in many scenarios. For instance, the caster sets an ambush. When the caravan passes by, she whispers a command word "halt" to the caravan leader, in order to make the caravan stop right in the perfect spot for the attack.

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It is ambiguous, and may vary by DM and by situation.

The first line of command's spell description is

You speak a one-word command to a creature you can see within range.

This implies that the caster must actually attempt to speak the command, and it must be expressed in a language that the target understands. Does whispering count as speaking? D&D 5E doesn't have explicit rules for language volume, so this will depend on DM interpretation.

However, command doesn't specify whether the command itself must be audible, or whether the target must be able to hear. And so this is a situation where D&D 5E is famously ambiguous and lets the DM adjudicate how the mechanics are resolved.

Suppose the the target is affected by silence but the caster remains outside its area of effect, allowing them to cast command. Assume the target and caster share the language of the command. The creature is deafened, which means they cannot hear, but the deafened condition doesn't specify anything about understanding language in general. The caster speaks the command aloud, thus the spell requirements have been met, but the target cannot physically hear.

Would this count as speaking to the creature? Can the deafened creature understand the language of the command spoken by the caster? The rules don't specify this, and so the DM decides.

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    \$\begingroup\$ It's worth noting that "message" explicitly says that magical silence blocks the spell, while "command" does not. \$\endgroup\$
    – smorgan
    Sep 6 '21 at 13:19
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No, the target does not need to hear the caster.

Spells do what they say they do. This is magic. Command has its qualifications defined.

You speak a one-word command to a creature you can see within range. The target must succeed on a Wisdom saving throw or follow the command on its next turn. The spell has no effect if the target is undead, if it doesn't understand your language, or if your command is directly harmful to it.

To convert the spell description into more explicit "fluff" description, the spell seems to take the command word you speak to the target, and put it into the target's brain as irresistible command said in the language you used. There is no requirement for them to hear you, so the spell must take care of that detail, as we have examples of spells which do explicitly require the target to hear the caster.

Now then, "speak to", without further qualifications, means speaking normally. When you talk about someone speaking, without qualifications, you mean they speak normally, no whispering, no yelling, no ventriloquism. But this is more muddled.


While the target doesn't need to hear you, you still need a clear path to the target, as the spell does not specify otherwise. This is part of general spell casting rules.

The caster must also be able to cast spells with a verbal component, so no Silence spell or a gag on the caster. But this is just general spell casting rules. It is also notable, that the command word is not the verbal component of the spell, so for example Subtle Spell will not remove the need to actually speak the command word.

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I think this is definitely up to your DM's discretion and it's not explicitly stated that the target has to hear the command, but the fact that the target has to understand the language and that it's a spoken command seems to imply that the target has to hear the command for it take effect.

One thing that comes to my mind is that it takes a verbal component to cast Command. What's the limit here? Could you just say the word by just moving your mouth and not actually saying anything. Why would you need to say it at all if they don't need to hear it? Does it still work under the silence effect?

I would talk to your DM and see how they would rule it, but if it was me, I'd say the target has to hear it.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ RAW is explicit that just moving your mouth without saying anything would not work. Verbal components are described as a "particular combination of sounds, with specific pitch and resonance". \$\endgroup\$
    – smorgan
    Sep 6 '21 at 13:15

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