This paper describes the findings of an experiment on how different engineers understand notions of function and functional breakdown in the context of design by modification. The experiment was conducted with a homogenous group of 20 design engineers, who had all received the same education. The subjects were asked to analyze how a hydraulic pump works and summarize their understanding in a function tree. The subjects were given either the hydraulic pump itself (with part of its casing removed) or a maintenance drawing that showed a section cut of the pump. This paper shows typical outputs of the designers. It discusses the different notions of function that the subjects had and the differences in the function trees they generated. The paper focuses an eight detailed analyses to show the range of approaches the subjects took.