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Three different ways to create a function in JavaScript

In JavaScript, there are multiple ways to create a function. Today, we’re going to look at the three most common ways, and the differences between them.

Let’s dig in!

Function Declarations

With a function declaration, you use the function keyword followed by the function name, parentheses, and curly brackets.

Any function parameters go between the parentheses, comma-separated. The stuff the function does happens between the curly brackets.

// Function declaration
function add (num1, num2) {
	return num1 + num2;

This is one of the most common ways to write a function.

Function Expressions

With a function expression, you first declare a variable. Then, you assign an anonymous function to it.

let add = function (num1, num2) {
	return num1 + num2;

This works more-or-less the same as a function declaration, with one notable difference.


When a JavaScript file (or HTML document with JavaScript in it) is loaded and compiled, the browser reads through the JavaScript in its entirety before running it.

When this happens, function declarations are hoisted, meaning that their values are already known before any code runs. Variable names are hoisted as well, but their assigned values are not.

That means that with a function expression, the name is known, but the function that goes with it is not.

As a result, you can run a function declaration before it appears in the code, but you cannot do that with a function expression.

// This runs just fine
add(4, 2);

function add (num1, num2) {
	return num1 + num2;

// This throws an error
// Uncaught TypeError: subtract is not a function
subtract(4, 2);

let subtract = function (num1, num2) {
	return num1 - num2;

Arrow Functions

Arrow functions were introduced to JavaScript in ES6.

A basic arrow function isn’t all that different from a traditional function. The word function gets dropped, and a fat arrow (=>) is added between the parentheses and brackets (() and {}, respectively).

Named arrow functions have to be written as a function expression. There’s no way to write one as a function declaration.

let add = (num1, num2) => {
	return num1 + num2;

If your function is only returning a value, as is the case with our add() function, you can simplify the function even further by dropping the curly brackets ({}) and return operator.

// returns the value of `num1 + num2`
let add = (num1, num2) => num1 + num2;

This only works if the only thing you’re doing is returning a value. If you need to do more stuff with your function, you have to include curly brackets.