I'm not sure if this is pure English, or just something I picked up as a direct translation from my native language (Dutch).

It applies to maths/computer terms.

An example usage would be:

X is created in function of Y.

Someone I know claims this is not English. He suggests I use

X is created with respect to Y.

instead. Please help me prove him wrong.

  • I think it's what I would call a "translationism": it's a phrase that probably exists as a result of dodgy translations and sounds decided odd to a native speaker, but it's also prevalent enough that native speakers may well use it from time to time. Jun 20, 2011 at 15:18
  • 5
    It is so not-English, that I actually don't know what you are trying to say by it.
    – Colin Fine
    Jun 20, 2011 at 16:03
  • The phrase refers to a function X, and a variable or a set of variables Y. For instance "velocity in function of time", which would mean you have calculated a graph, and time is the variable. Though, in this context I guess you could also say "velocity over time". In Dutch it can also be applied to non-mathematical context, for instance: Tourists choose their holiday destination in function of the local weather, which imples that tourists will pick a destination that has nice weather.
    – Tovi7
    Jun 22, 2011 at 6:22

5 Answers 5


I don't think you're going to prove him wrong. :-) "In function of" definitely sounds wrong, even in a maths/computing context.

Perhaps you mean that X is created as a function of Y. In a computing context, X may be returned by the function Y.

  • 1
    Well bummer :-) I was afraid of this.
    – Tovi7
    Jun 20, 2011 at 9:27
  • Note that "X may be returned by the function Y" has a different meaning. It implies "Y" is the function, but my phrase always makes X the function, and Y the variable.
    – Tovi7
    Jun 22, 2011 at 6:17
  • @Tovi7 Does it? I thought with the phrase X is created with respect to Y, X would certainly be a variable/value (it is created!) and Y would probably be a function.
    – Jez
    Jun 22, 2011 at 8:05

How would you say it in Dutch, then? X wordt gemaakt in functie van Y? That doesn't sound right, so you probably mean something else. I'd say X is een functie van Y or the other way around (x=3y is not as common as y=3x). That would translate to English as is a function of, which sounds fine:

Y is a function of X.

  • Actually "in functie van" is perfect Dutch. If you google it, you'll get 10.000.000 hits. It refers to something being expressed in with whatever that comes after "van" as the variable. "is een functie van" has a different meaning.
    – Tovi7
    Jun 22, 2011 at 6:10
  • Also: taaladvies.net/taal/advies/vraag/296
    – Tovi7
    Jun 22, 2011 at 6:16
  • @Tovi7: Ah, so it's Flemish! That explains it: a Dutchman would be nonplussed. The Taaladviesdienst calls it a somewhat "vague" expression... P.S. My apologies for the recent ramblings of our governor; she is a nutcase. Jun 22, 2011 at 11:04

Perhaps a more English version would be "on the basis of" or something like that, or even, "They choose their holiday destination depending on the local weather."


I am not a native speaker. I have translated this phrase into Turkish in several occasions while translating official EU documents. The meaning I derived from the general wording is "instead of" or "having the function of". Quote from the original document: "... to set mandatory objectives and targets in function of the particular policies and conditions prevailing in the relevant sector ..."

  • 2
    Could you post a link to any public documents that have this in? I feel a stern letter about grammar to my MEP is in order. Feb 21, 2012 at 13:39
  • 1
    @Matt; wasted effort. A stern missive about misuse of grammar will bring a form letter saying how much his party is doing for unhappy pensioners. Apr 11, 2012 at 20:23

When I saw this query, the first thing that sprang to mind was the Spanish expression "en función de", which is usually translated as "depending on" or similar. However, in the mathematical context, I'd expect to hear something like "X as a function of Y".

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