Difference between a method and a function


A method is on an object.
A function is independent of an object.

For Java, there are only methods.
For C, there are only functions.

For C++ it would depend on whether or not you're in a class.


Can someone provide a simple explanation of methods vs. functions in OOP context?

In C++, sometimes, method is used to reflect the notion of member function of a class. However, recently I found a statement in the book «The C++ Programming Language 4th Edition», on page 586 "Derived Classes"

A virtual function is sometimes called a method.

This is a little bit confusing, but he said sometimes, so it roughly makes sense, C++ creator tends to see methods as functions can be invoked on objects and can behave polymorphic.

Function is a set of logic that can be used to manipulate data.

While, Method is function that is used to manipulate the data of the object where it belongs. So technically, if you have a function that is not completely related to your class but was declared in the class, its not a method; It's called a bad design.

Let's not over complicate what should be a very simple answer. Methods and functions are the same thing. You call a function a function when it is outside of a class, and you call a function a method when it is written inside a class.

A class is the collection of some data and function optionally with a constructor.

While you creating an instance (copy,replication) of that particular class the constructor initialize the class and return an object.

Now the class become object (without constructor) & Functions are known as method in the object context.

So basically

Class <==new==>Object

Function <==new==>Method

In java the it is generally told as that the constructor name same as class name but in real that constructor is like instance block and static block but with having a user define return type(i.e. Class type)

While the class can have an static block,instance block,constructor, function The object generally have only data & method.

I am not an expert, but this is what I know:

  1. Function is C language term, it refers to a piece of code and the function name will be the identifier to use this function.

  2. Method is the OO term, typically it has a this pointer in the function parameter. You can not invoke this piece of code like C, you need to use object to invoke it.

  3. The invoke methods are also different. Here invoke meaning to find the address of this piece of code. C/C++, the linking time will use the function symbol to locate.

  4. Objecive-C is different. Invoke meaning a C function to use data structure to find the address. It means everything is known at run time.

Let's say a function is a block of code (usually with its own scope, and sometimes with its own closure) that may receive some arguments and may also return a result.

A method is a function that is owned by an object (in some object oriented systems, it is more correct to say it is owned by a class). Being "owned" by a object/class means that you refer to the method through the object/class; for example, in Java if you want to invoke a method "open()" owned by an object "door" you need to write "door.open()".

Usually methods also gain some extra attributes describing their behaviour within the object/class, for example: visibility (related to the object oriented concept of encapsulation) which defines from which objects (or classes) the method can be invoked.

In many object oriented languages, all "functions" belong to some object (or class) and so in these languages there are no functions that are not methods.

If you feel like reading here is "My introduction to OO methods"

The idea behind Object Oriented paradigm is to "threat" the software is composed of .. well "objects". Objects in real world have properties, for instance if you have an Employee, the employee has a name, an employee id, a position, he belongs to a department etc. etc.

The object also know how to deal with its attributes and perform some operations on them. Let say if we want to know what an employee is doing right now we would ask him.

employe whatAreYouDoing.

That "whatAreYouDoing" is a "message" sent to the object. The object knows how to answer to that questions, it is said it has a "method" to resolve the question.

So, the way objects have to expose its behavior are called methods. Methods thus are the artifact object have to "do" something.

Other possible methods are

employee whatIsYourName
employee whatIsYourDepartmentsName


Functions in the other hand are ways a programming language has to compute some data, for instance you might have the function addValues( 8 , 8 ) that returns 16

// pseudo-code
function addValues( int x, int y )  return x + y 
// call it 
result = addValues( 8,8 )
print result // output is 16...

Since first popular programming languages ( such as fortran, c, pascal ) didn't cover the OO paradigm, they only call to these artifacts "functions".

for instance the previous function in C would be:

int addValues( int x, int y ) 
   return x + y;

It is not "natural" to say an object has a "function" to perform some action, because functions are more related to mathematical stuff while an Employee has little mathematic on it, but you can have methods that do exactly the same as functions, for instance in Java this would be the equivalent addValues function.

public static int addValues( int x, int y ) {
    return x + y;

Looks familiar? That´s because Java have its roots on C++ and C++ on C.

At the end is just a concept, in implementation they might look the same, but in the OO documentation these are called method.

Here´s an example of the previously Employee object in Java.

public class Employee {

    Department department;
    String name;

    public String whatsYourName(){
        return this.name;
    public String whatsYourDeparmentsName(){
         return this.department.name();
    public String whatAreYouDoing(){
        return "nothing";
    // Ignore the following, only set here for completness
    public Employee( String name ) {
        this.name = name;


// Usage sample.
Employee employee = new Employee( "John" ); // Creates an employee called John

// If I want to display what is this employee doing I could use its methods.
// to know it.
String name = employee.whatIsYourName():
String doingWhat = employee.whatAreYouDoint();

// Print the info to the console.

 System.out.printf("Employee %s is doing: %s", name, doingWhat );

Employee John is doing nothing.

The difference then, is on the "domain" where it is applied.

AppleScript have the idea of "natural language" matphor , that at some point OO had. For instance Smalltalk. I hope it may be reasonable easier for you to understand methods in objects after reading this.

NOTE: The code is not to be compiled, just to serve as an example. Feel free to modify the post and add Python example.

From my understanding a method is any operation which can be performed on a class. It is a general term used in programming.

In many languages methods are represented by functions and subroutines. The main distinction that most languages use for these is that functions may return a value back to the caller and a subroutine may not. However many modern languages only have functions, but these can optionally not return any value.

For example, lets say you want to describe a cat and you would like that to be able to yawn. You would create a Cat class, with a Yawn method, which would most likely be a function without any return value.

Function is a set of logic that can be used to manipulate data. While, Method is function that is used to manipulate the data of the object where it belongs. So technically, if you have a function that is not completely related to your class but was declared in the class, its not a method; It's called a bad design.

A function is a mathematical concept. For example:

f(x,y) = sin(x) + cos(y)

says that function f() will return the sin of the first parameter added to the cosine of the second parameter. It's just math. As it happens sin() and cos() are also functions. A function has another property: all calls to a function with the same parameters, should return the same result.

A method, on the other hand, is a function that is related to an object in an object-oriented language. It has one implicit parameter: the object being acted upon (and it's state).

So, if you have an object Z with a method g(x), you might see the following:

Z.g(x) = sin(x) + cos(Z.y)

In this case, the parameter x is passed in, the same as in the function example earlier. However, the parameter to cos() is a value that lives inside the object Z. Z and the data that lives inside it (Z.y) are implicit parameters to Z's g() method.

IMHO people just wanted to invent new word for easier communication between programmers when they wanted to refer to functions inside objects.

If you are saying methods you mean functions inside the class. If you are saying functions you mean simply functions outside the class.

The truth is that both words are used to describe functions. Even if you used it wrongly nothing wrong happens. Both words describe well what you want to achieve in your code.

Function is a code that has to play a role (a function) of doing something. Method is a method to resolve the problem.

It does the same thing. It is the same thing. If you want to be super precise and go along with the convention you can call methods as the functions inside objects.

In general: methods are functions that belong to a class, functions can be on any other scope of the code so you could state that all methods are functions, but not all functions are methods:

Take the following python example:

class Door:
  def open(self):
    print 'hello stranger'

def knock_door:
  a_door = Door()


The example given shows you a class called "Door" which has a method or action called "open", it is called a method because it was declared inside a class. There is another portion of code with "def" just below which defines a function, it is a function because it is not declared inside a class, this function calls the method we defined inside our class as you can see and finally the function is being called by itself.

As you can see you can call a function anywhere but if you want to call a method either you have to pass a new object of the same type as the class the method is declared (Class.method(object)) or you have to invoke the method inside the object (object.Method()), at least in python.

Think of methods as things only one entity can do, so if you have a Dog class it would make sense to have a bark function only inside that class and that would be a method, if you have also a Person class it could make sense to write a function "feed" for that doesn't belong to any class since both humans and dogs can be fed and you could call that a function since it does not belong to any class in particular.

In OO languages such as Object Pascal or C++, a "method" is a function associated with an object. So, for example, a "Dog" object might have a "bark" function and this would be considered a "Method". In contrast, the "StrLen" function stands alone (it provides the length of a string provided as an argument). It is thus just a "function." Javascript is technically Object Oriented as well but faces many limitations compared to a full-blown language like C++, C# or Pascal. Nonetheless, the distinction should still hold.

A couple of additional facts: C# is fully object oriented so you cannot create standalone "functions." In C# every function is bound to an object and is thus, technically, a "method." The kicker is that few people in C# refer to them as "methods" - they just use the term "functions" because there isn't any real distinction to be made.

Finally - just so any Pascal gurus don't jump on me here - Pascal also differentiates between "functions" (which return a value) and "procedures" which do not. C# does not make this distinction explicitly although you can, of course, choose to return a value or not.