Using (calling) a method

Once defined we can use our method.

As programmers we usually say that we “call” a method. This means we ask Ruby to execute the code that the method body has, with some given arguments (input), if any.

Here’s how that looks:

def add_two(number)
  number + 2

puts add_two(3)

Let’s inspect what’s happening here under the microscope. If you don’t understand each part of this just yet, don’t worry, we’ll get back to all of this.

On the first three lines Ruby defines the method add_two as discussed above.

So Ruby now deviates from the normal flow, which just goes from top to bottom in our file. Instead she now jumps into the method body.

In this moment she now assigns the number 3 to a local variable number before she starts executing the method body.

That’s right. This is how method arguments work:

When a method is called and objects are passed as arguments, then Ruby implicitely defines local variables with the argument names. She assigns the passed objects to the variable names that are in the argument list. These local variables are then available in the method body.

In our case we have just one argument number. So we get one local variable number with the object 3 assigned (because that’s the object passed when we called the method).

You can imagine the method body now reads like this:

number = 3
number + 2

Ok, so we’re inside the method body now:

So Ruby now jumps back out of the method. The expression add_two(3) has just returned the object 5. Imagine the last line now reads like this instead:

puts 5

And that will now print the number 5 to the screen.

Let’s have a closer look at that thing with the return value (“output”), as we just rushed over that a little.