Also Known as/Related

  • parameters


Functions are a way to reuse code efficiently. It allows you to define a set of steps of code that should be run when the function is “called”, along with a name.

Using existing functions

Using (or “calling”) existing functions works the same in most languages. You find whatever the name of the function is, and you type function_name(), some functions take in extra data (called parameters), so you can “pass” the function this data when you call it.

For example here is how you print some text to the screen in python using the print() function:

print("Hello World")

We can do the same thing in javascript using a different function called console.log():

console.log("Hello world")

Parts of a function

To create a function there are several parts you need, all of the parts work to define what the function does, and how it does it.

Function definition

This is where you define the function name (and optionally parameters). To define a function you will need to use the definition keyword in whatever language you are writing, and you will need to provide a name.

For example in python def is the definition keyword. So if we were to define a function that will tell you what the weather is today called todays_weather we could do it like this:

def todays_weather():
    # This is where the function body will go

We could do the same thing in javascript like this:

function todays_weather(){
    // This is where the function body will go

Naming conventions

Languages will have different naming conventions. You don’t have to follow these, but it’s recommended. In python functions are usually “snake case”, this means the names are all lowercase, and you seperate words with “_”.

Javascript typically uses camelCase, instead of seperating different words you just capitalize the first letter. So instead of todays_weather(), our javascript function should be:

function todaysWeather(){
    // This is where the function body will go

This changes nothing about the code that is run with a function, it’s just a convention people follow in languages to standardize how code looks.


Parameters are data you can pass to a function in order to be able to re-use code more effectively. For example you might specify a name parameter that is used to pass the user’s name to a function. Imagine we have a function called greeting() that takes this name parameter, it might look like this in python:

def greeting(name):
    # Function body here

and like this in javascript

function greeting(name){
    // function body here
Multiple parameters

You can specify multiple parameters for functions, in most languages you can do this with a comma seperated list of names for the parameters. For example a function game_over() that takes in a winner and loser parameter. First in python:

def game_over(winner, loser):
    # Function body here

Now in javascript a gameOver() function with the same parameters:

function gameOver(winner, loser){
    // Function body here
Default and optional values for parameters

You can also specify parameters that have default values. This can be used to make common situations your functions will be run under easier, but also can be used to make some parameters optional if the value is still the default when run. Here is a function feedback_form_submission() that takes in data from when someone fills out a form in an app, it takes in the email of the user, and optionally a comment variable:

def feedback_form_submission(name, comment=""):
    # function body here

# Can now call the function with a comment
feedback_form_submission("John Doe", "What an awful event")

# Or call it without a comment

In python these are also called keyword arguments (kwargs for short). In javascript it would look like this

function feedback_form_submission(name, comment=""){
    // function body herepython

// Can now call the function with a comment
feedback_form_submission("John Doe", "What an awful event")

// Or call it without a comment
Typed vs Untyped

There are different types of languages, strongly and weakly typed. Strongly typed languages require you to tell the language what the types of each parameter are (integer, string, list etc.). Javascript and python are weakly typed languages, so this isn’t required, but python does offer type hinting, which can be useful in ambiguous situations. If you have never heard of type hints, they are used to define what data type each of the variables/attributes should be. For example a string variable called name would look like this:


And if the variable can more than one type you have the first type on one side of a | and then the other option for the type. So str | None would mean the variable could be a string, or a None like this:

name: str|None

We could then apply this to our parameters like this:

def feedback_form_submission(name:str, comment:str=""):
    # function body here

Function body

This is where you define the code that should be run when someone calls a function. This is defined by some sort of scope identifier. These scope identifiers change per language, but there are two common ones.


The indentation level of the code is used to identify the scope in several languages. For example in python let’s define a function called greet_person() which takes in a name parameter which is a string and uses it to greet them:

def greet_person(name:str):
    # Function body starts here
    print("Hello there")
    # And ends here


Squiflies (not the actual name) are often used as scope identifiers in languages. For example in javascript you define where a function starts and stops with everything inside squigglies ({}), so a function starts at { and ends at }. Here is an example of a function that takes in a name, prints a greeting, then the name:

function greetPerson(name){
    console.log("Good morning")

This means when someone calls greetPerson("kieran") only the two console.log() statements will run!


For some functions you will want to return a resulting value. The easiest example of this is returning a number from an addition function:

def add(x, y):
    return x + y

or in js

function add(x, y){
    return x + y

Type hinting returns

You can type hint your returns the same as you can with your parameters in python. You simply add a little arrow -> before you start the function:

def add(x:int, y:int)->int:
    return x + y

This tells people what to expect when they retrieve the value of a function and store it in a variable