Module 1: Part 1 – Functions

Hello Exam Seekers,

As I have already mentioned in my previous posts about the TKT (Teaching Knowledge Test), it is a series of modular teaching qualifications which test the teacher’s knowledge in specific areas of English language teaching.

There are 3 core modules, designed by Cambridge to provide a foundation in the practice and principles of language teaching:

TKT: Module 1 — Background to language teaching
TKT: Module 2 — Planning for language teaching
TKT: Module 3 — Classroom management

Today, I’m going to talk about:

  • MODULE 1 – Language and background to language learning teaching
  • PART 1 – Describing language and language skills         
  • UNIT 4 – Functions

Last time, I wrote about Phonology, which describes the study of the sound features used in a language to communicate meaning. In English, these features include phonemes, word stress, sentence stress, and intonation. Another aspect of the language is Functions. Both Phonology and Functions are important, but if we want to communicate in a language, we need to know why we are doing so.

So what are Functions? They are the reason why we communicate. Every time we speak or write, we do so for a purpose or function. Here is a sample of how Cambridge assesses your knowledge about Functions:

TKT Functions Sample
TKT Functions Sample

As you can see, you need to show that you know the reasons behind a sentence. Why? Because, when dealing with people, we need to know what the person needs/wants from us. As teachers, when we teach students how to use the language, we can do so by describing it grammatically or lexically. However, we may also teach students how to communicate through functions, through which we emphasize the use of the language and its meaning in certain contexts, for the students to know why he/she is learning this or that content.

So here are some examples of functions:

  • apologising;
  • advising;
  • greeting;
  • agreeing;
  • clarifying;
  • disagreeing;
  • inviting;
  • refusing;
  • thanking;
  • interrupting;
  • expressing obligation;
  • expressing preferecences; and others.

So look at the table below:

Table for the TKT Functions sample
Table for the TKT Functions sample

In this table, you can see the coxtent, and the functions followed by the specific topic that they refer to in these contexts. Important to notice that there is an extra item there: Exponent. The exponent is the language we use to express the function.

So, for instance, the context is: “A boy wants to go to the cinemas with his friends tonight“, and the language this boy uses to communicate this desire is “Let’s go to the cinema tonight“. When he uses the word “Let’s“, the function of his speech is “suggesting/making a suggestion“, and the “go to the cinema tonight” is the specific topic, which in this case is “about going to the cinema“.

As you may imagine, one exponent can express several different functions because its function depends on the context. One function can also be expressed through different exponents. Here are some different exponents of suggesting to going to the cinema:

  • Movies tonight?
  • What about going to the movies tonight?
  • Let’s go to the cinema tonight.
  • Shall we go to the cinema tonight?
  • I’d be pleased if we could go to the movies tonight.

What are the differences between them? Can you perceive it? These exponents express different levels of formality (formal/neutral/informal), which are always connected to appropriacy and inappropriacy – which means that depending on the context, you have to be more or less formal, so your exponent has to be adequate to the situation.

Functions are always taught in coursebooks together with the grammar of the main exponents like:

Table for the TKT Functions Coursebook sample
Table for the TKT Functions Coursebook sample

Combining functions and grammar helps to give grammar a meaning for learners and helps them to learn functions with grammatical structures that they can then use in other contexts.

So, what do you think about functions? Should they be taught together with grammatical structures or apart from them? Make sure you leave a comment below.

And for more information, check the TKT 3 Core Modules Book (link for the book in Brazil here):

Cambridge English TKT Core Modules


That’s it for today! Please like the post and follow the blog on:

You can also listen to this post at Anchor!!!

Have a great week,
Patricia Moura


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OBS: All samples provided by Cambridge.

Answer Key:

1. D
2. A
3. G
4. B
5. E
6. C

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