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This Is Why Groot Only Says, ‘I Am Groot’

If you only know one thing about Guardians of the Galaxy‘s Groot, you know he’s a walking tree. If you know two things about him, you know that the only words he ever says are “I am Groot.” But why does Groot only say “I am Groot,” though? Is Groot’s catchphrase just Marvel’s way of making his character cute, or is there a story behind it?

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We first meet Groot in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 1, in which he’s traveling with his bestie, Rocket Raccoon, and searching for bounties to collect. Despite Groot’s vocabulary being limited to three words, he seems to express a wide variety of ideas. Rocket clearly understands everything he’s saying, and later, after the two of them join up with the other Guardians, the rest of them eventually learn to understand him, too—see, for example, their reaction to what’s apparently some really foul bit of profanity at the beginning of Infinity War.

Groot’s speech seems like nothing more than a running gag, but when Thor meets up with the Guardians later in Infinity War, we find out that he learned how to speak Groot in school. Even though Groot’s speech only sounds like three words, it’s actually a whole language. But why does it only sound like three words? Here’s why Groot only says “I am Groot,” explained.

Groot’s Heritage and Physiology

We don’t get any real explanation for Groot’s speech in the MCU. Rocket simply tells Peter Quill that Groot “don’t know talking good like me and you.” The comics, on the other hand, shed some light on Groot. In Marvel lore, Groot is a member of the Flora Colossi, a race of treelike alien beings from Planet X. Funnily enough, when Groot was very first introduced in 1960’s Tales to Astonish #13, he spoke English, but Marvel later changed his character and limited his speech.

In the Marvel universe, Flora Colossi are highly intelligent (despite Groot making some … questionable decisions in the Guardians movies), but they’re only physically capable of producing a sequence of sounds that sounds like the words “I am Groot.” Why? Because their larynxes are too stiff to make any other sound.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. You form words with your mouth, not your larynx. If the physical difference is in Groot’s voice box, then why does he have a booming voice (as an adult, anyway) and a limited vocabulary, instead of the other way around?

If you’re starting to suspect that maybe, just maybe a comic book publisher’s explanation for their talking tree character doesn’t make any sense, you’re right! Congratulations, you now have completely useless knowledge that didn’t even really answer the question that brought you to this article.

If you want, you can do what I did to make Groot’s situation make sense. You can wave off the question of his vocabulary and tell yourself that there’s a whole auditory landscape of nuance in the Flora Colossi language that the other characters can hear, but we can’t. We just haven’t learned Groot like they have. It’s okay. Rocket and the others are fluent, and they’re there to help us out.

(featured image: Marvel)

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Julia Glassman (she/her) holds an MFA from the Iowa Writers' Workshop, and has been covering feminism and media since 2007. As a staff writer for The Mary Sue, Julia covers Marvel movies, folk horror, sci fi and fantasy, film and TV, comics, and all things witchy. Under the pen name Asa West, she's the author of the popular zine 'Five Principles of Green Witchcraft' (Gods & Radicals Press). You can check out more of her writing at