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.


The way bonus actions work is:

  1. You can't take more than one bonus action per turn
  2. If using an ability/spell/whatever is done as 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.

The converse is that if you don't have anything to do this turn that is a bonus action, then you can't take even one bonus action this turn.

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

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ 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. \$\endgroup\$ – 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.


After a great deal of reading, and trying to figure out the what the rules are trying to accomplish, i frustratingly came to the same answer as these two. unfortunately though, that's not how the rule is written. there are about a dozen spells that have a casting time of: "a bonus action". none of the characters classes in question are granted bonus actions (although the fighter class and the ranger class get a second "action" at 5th level).

The rule (under casting time) specifically says these spells must be cast as (and only as) a bonus action. it should read also that once memorized these spells grant the caster a bonus action to use for the purposes of casting the spell.

The rules for bonus action specify that "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." which means that if it says something in my class description (as does the rogue), or in a spell description (which would be something akin to a haste spell), or by the effects of a magical item- you get none. it doesn't say that if the spell casting time is "a bonus action" you receive a bonus action.

I'm an old school gamer, I don't play video games (save what's on my arcade machines like pac-man and galaga), I never played 3e, 3.5, pathfinder, 4e or world of warcraft. I got together with friends, i read the rules, and because the PHB is so full of vagueness and half written (and not well thought out) rules it makes me want to set it on fire and walk away, leaving it to younger people to mess with.

another instance is the wood elf's ability to hide in light obscurement (which hints that it is a special ability that others do not have) but if you look under obscurement charts- everyone shares this ability. so either they just wasted a neat paragraph on style (possibly to bulk the book up with fluff?) while adding nothing substantive to the game, or they forgot to add a mechanic (such as wood elves gain advantage while trying to hide in lightly obscured conditions). I prefer the latter, but suspect the former.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Casting time is part of a spell's description, though not part of the paragraph section. As such, it does qualify as a spell stating you can use a bonus action. The Wood Elf question is more interesting, and I recommend you post it as its own question. Welcome to the site, and be sure to take the tour! \$\endgroup\$ – Joel Harmon Dec 31 '16 at 17:04

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