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How to override a parent file in a child WordPress theme when parent file is being required in functions.php

Posted by: admin July 12, 2020 Leave a comment


I’m rather new to designing and coding WordPress themes and have recently started a child theme based on the Sydney theme that’s offered free in WordPress. I have hit a snag I can’t work out.

There’s a PHP file being called through the parent’s functions.php that I need to customize and need to be untouched when I update the parent theme. This file is called template-tags.php and is located inside an “inc” folder. Now, supposedly, according to the WordPress codex (which I have consulted before asking here), any duplicate files on the child theme (except the functions.php) will automatically override those in the parent theme. I don’t know if this works as well for files inside folders but I think the fact that this particular file is being called in the parent’s functions.php makes it so that it is the parent’s file that is being loaded. I am assuming this because the same goes for the style CSS and JS script files that I had to enqueue in the child theme in order to get my own customized versions in.

However, there is nothing in the WordPress codex that explains how to override a file that is being already called in the parent’s functions.php. And I can’t find anything anywhere else (not even in these questions: WordPress child theme override a parent theme include, Overiding parent theme functions with a Child theme in WordPress, How to override a not plugable parent theme function from a non function.php file?, WordPress child theme – functions.php copy – cannot "redeclare") that helps me specifically.

So, to sum it all up:

  • The parent theme has an “inc” folder with the file template-tags.php in it.
  • My child theme also has an “inc” folder with the file template-tags.php in it.
  • The parent theme’s functions.php has the following code that calls its file:

    require get_template_directory() . '/inc/template-tags.php';
  • Anything I try to add in my child’s functions.php file that calls its template-tags.php file will result in an error because obviously WP can’t require the same thing twice.

Short of commenting out the call in the parent’s functions.php, which does’t seem to me a practical solution but more of a work-around, I have no idea what else to do.

I would appreciate any input at this time. Thanks in advance!

How to&Answers:

Hello @QuestionerNo27,

It’s been a long time since you asked this but I’ve also been looking for an answer for 2 days as I was facing the same issue. There is the answer, simple like “Hi”:

  1. You dont need the inc folder in your child theme nor the template-tags.php file.
  2. You just have to copy the function(s) you want to override from your parent template-tags.php and paste it into your child theme functions.php
    In my case, I wanted to override function mytheme_posted_on() from my parent template-tags.php

And it’s now working. Thanks to https://wordpress.org/support/topic/inc-folder-in-child-theme (Stephencottontail answer)


I had a similar problem where I wanted to make changes to the layout of the header in my child theme within the template-tags.php.

The solution that worked for me was to use the following line in my functions.php file in my child theme:
require get_stylesheet_directory() . ‘/inc/template-tags.php’;

I was using the original line from the the Parent them in functions.php:
require get_template_directory() . ‘/inc/template-tags.php’;

Using the function get_template_directory() was not working because this function will always return the parent theme directory.

Using the function get_stylesheet_directory() worked because it retrieves the Child Theme directory.

Yes I know the name of the function “get_stylesheet_directory()” is not very intuitive but it it actually will return the Child Theme directory location.

It took a while to work this out by searching online. I found this reference online that helped me in my search: How to override a parent file in a child WordPress theme when parent file is being required in functions.php