People Innovation Excellence

Language Functions 1


A language function is something for which an utterance or unit of language is used. You can think of functions as categories of behaviour.

Functions in English are used to achieve a communicative objective. Let’s look at some commonly used functions and the phrases that apply to them.



  • … if I were you.
  • … ought to… (this indicates stronger advice).


  • I would ask the boss first if I were you.
  • You ought to write a thank you letter to your grandmother.



  • Repetition of the same auxiliary.
  • Use do if there is no auxiliary.
  • Neither to agree with a negative statement.


  • I really like the Hotel Shangri La in Bali.
  • So do I.


  • I am really interested in the history of ancient China.
  • So am I.


  • I don’t understand why languages can be so complicated.
  • Neither do I.



  • Of course, apologising means saying sorry!
  • Use so to emphasise how very sorry you are.
  • Use I’m afraid to soften a rejection or give bad news.


  • I am so sorry that I am late.
  • I am afraid that you need to pay a fine.

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