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Java Inheritance

In this tutorial, we will learn about Java inheritance and its types with the help of example.

Inheritance is one of the key features of OOP that allows us to create a new class from an existing class.

The new class that is created is known as subclass (child or derived class) and the existing class from where the child class is derived is known as superclass (parent or base class).

The extends keyword is used to perform inheritance in Java. For example,

class Animal {
  // methods and fields
}

// use of extends keyword
// to perform inheritance
class Dog extends Animal {

  // methods and fields of Animal
  // methods and fields of Dog
}

In the above example, the Dog class is created by inheriting the methods and fields from the Animal class.

Here, Dog is the subclass and Animal is the superclass.


Example 1: Java Inheritance

class Animal {

  // field and method of the parent class
  String name;
  public void eat() {
    System.out.println("I can eat");
  }
}

// inherit from Animal
class Dog extends Animal {

  // new method in subclass
  public void display() {
    System.out.println("My name is " + name);
  }
}

class Main {
  public static void main(String[] args) {

    // create an object of the subclass
    Dog labrador = new Dog();

    // access field of superclass
    labrador.name = "Rohu";
    labrador.display();

    // call method of superclass
    // using object of subclass
    labrador.eat();

  }
}

Output

My name is Rohu
I can eat

In the above example, we have derived a subclass Dog from superclass Animal. Notice the statements,

labrador.name = "Rohu";

labrador.eat();

Here, labrador is an object of Dog. However, name and eat() are the members of the Animal class.

Since Dog inherits the field and method from Animal, we are able to access the field and method using the object of the Dog.

Subclass Dog can access the field and method of the superclass Animal.
Java Inheritance Implementation

is-a relationship

In Java, inheritance is an is-a relationship. That is, we use inheritance only if there exists an is-a relationship between two classes. For example,

  • Car is a Vehicle
  • Orange is a Fruit
  • Surgeon is a Doctor
  • Dog is an Animal

Here, Car can inherit from Vehicle, Orange can inherit from Fruit, and so on.


Method Overriding in Java Inheritance

In Example 1, we see the object of the subclass can access the method of the superclass.

However, if the same method is present in both the superclass and subclass, what will happen?

In this case, the method in the subclass overrides the method in the superclass. This concept is known as method overriding in Java.

Example 2: Method overriding in Java Inheritance

class Animal {

  // method in the superclass
  public void eat() {
    System.out.println("I can eat");
  }
}

// Dog inherits Animal
class Dog extends Animal {

  // overriding the eat() method
  @Override
  public void eat() {
    System.out.println("I eat dog food");
  }

  // new method in subclass
  public void bark() {
    System.out.println("I can bark");
  }
}

class Main {
  public static void main(String[] args) {

    // create an object of the subclass
    Dog labrador = new Dog();

    // call the eat() method
    labrador.eat();
    labrador.bark();
  }
}

Output

I eat dog food
I can bark

In the above example, the eat() method is present in both the superclass Animal and the subclass Dog.

Here, we have created an object labrador of Dog.

Now when we call eat() using the object labrador, the method inside Dog is called. This is because the method inside the derived class overrides the method inside the base class.

This is called method overriding. To learn more, visit Java Method Overriding.

Note: We have used the @Override annotation to tell the compiler that we are overriding a method. However, the annotation is not mandatory. To learn more, visit Java Annotations.


super Keyword in Java Inheritance

Previously we saw that the same method in the subclass overrides the method in superclass.

In such a situation, the super keyword is used to call the method of the parent class from the method of the child class.

Example 3: super Keyword in Inheritance

class Animal {

  // method in the superclass
  public void eat() {
    System.out.println("I can eat");
  }
}

// Dog inherits Animal
class Dog extends Animal {

  // overriding the eat() method
  @Override
  public void eat() {

    // call method of superclass
    super.eat();
    System.out.println("I eat dog food");
  }

  // new method in subclass
  public void bark() {
    System.out.println("I can bark");
  }
}

class Main {
  public static void main(String[] args) {

    // create an object of the subclass
    Dog labrador = new Dog();

    // call the eat() method
    labrador.eat();
    labrador.bark();
  }
}

Output

I can eat
I eat dog food
I can bark 

In the above example, the eat() method is present in both the base class Animal and the derived class Dog. Notice the statement,

super.eat();

Here, the super keyword is used to call the eat() method present in the superclass.

We can also use the super keyword to call the constructor of the superclass from the constructor of the subclass. To learn more, visit Java super keyword.


protected Members in Inheritance

In Java, if a class includes protected fields and methods, then these fields and methods are accessible from the subclass of the class.

Example 4: protected Members in Inheritance

class Animal {
  protected String name;

  protected void display() {
    System.out.println("I am an animal.");
  }
}

class Dog extends Animal {

  public void getInfo() {
    System.out.println("My name is " + name);
  }
}

class Main {
  public static void main(String[] args) {

    // create an object of the subclass
    Dog labrador = new Dog();

    // access protected field and method
    // using the object of subclass
    labrador.name = "Rocky";
    labrador.display();

    labrador.getInfo();
  }
}

Output

I am an animal.
My name is Rocky

In the above example, we have created a class named Animal. The class includes a protected field: name and a method: display().

We have inherited the Dog class inherits Animal. Notice the statement,

labrador.name = "Rocky";
labrador.display();

Here, we are able to access the protected field and method of the superclass using the labrador object of the subclass.


Why use inheritance?

  • The most important use of inheritance in Java is code reusability. The code that is present in the parent class can be directly used by the child class.
  • Method overriding is also known as runtime polymorphism. Hence, we can achieve Polymorphism in Java with the help of inheritance.

Types of inheritance

There are five types of inheritance.

1. Single Inheritance

In single inheritance, a single subclass extends from a single superclass. For example,

Class A inherits from class B.
Java Single Inheritance

2. Multilevel Inheritance

In multilevel inheritance, a subclass extends from a superclass and then the same subclass acts as a superclass for another class. For example,

Class B inherits from class A and class C inherits from class B.
Java Multilevel Inheritance

3. Hierarchical Inheritance

In hierarchical inheritance, multiple subclasses extend from a single superclass. For example,

Both classes B and C inherit from the single class A.
Java Hierarchical Inheritance

4. Multiple Inheritance

In multiple inheritance, a single subclass extends from multiple superclasses. For example,

Class C inherits from both classes A and B.
Java Multiple Inheritance

Note: Java doesn't support multiple inheritance. However, we can achieve multiple inheritance using interfaces. To learn more, visit Java implements multiple inheritance.


5. Hybrid Inheritance

Hybrid inheritance is a combination of two or more types of inheritance. For example,

Class B and C inherit from a single class A and class D inherits from both the class B and C.
Java Hybrid Inheritance

Here, we have combined hierarchical and multiple inheritance to form a hybrid inheritance.