The T cell can be defined in the context of two properties - the recognition specificity of the T cell receptor (TCR) heterodimer and the functional response of the T cell after TCR stimulation. Once a particular TCR heterodimer is expressed and successfully selected during thymic development, the antigen specificity is fixed for all the clonal progeny of that cell. In contrast, the potential functional responses that may be generated in response to specific antigen in the postthymic environment an quite extensive. These range from programmed cell death to initiation of alternate programs of phenotype development that generate effector populations with distinct cytokine expression patterns and regulatory properties. Recent advances in analytical methods that have permitted multiparametric characterizations of the T cell response at the single cell, rather than population level, have necessitated a modified view of T cell activation and the clonal T cell response, and have generated new insights into the regulation of immunity. In this brief review, we highlight studies that have characterized heterogeneity of the CD4+T cell clonal response based on single-cell analyses, and discuss implications for models of T cell activation and cytokine phenotype development.