Polymorphism in Java Tutorial – With Object Oriented Programming Example Code


Polymorphism permits objects to be handled in a substitutable approach. This reduces duplication of code if you need the identical actions to be carried out on several types of objects. Polymorphism actually means “many forms”.

Let’s clarify what we imply by this precisely.

Explanation of Polymorphism by Analogy

If you will have ever travelled internationally, one merchandise in your packing guidelines is more likely to be {an electrical} plug adapter. Otherwise, chances are you’ll not be capable to cost your telephone and different gadgets.

Photo by Call Me Fred

Bizarrely, there are roughly 16 several types of electrical sockets worldwide. Some have 2 pins, some have three pins, some pins are round, some pins are rectangular, and the configuration of the pins fluctuate.

The answer most individuals take is to purchase a common plug adapter.

To have a look at the issue one other approach, usually the difficulty is we’ve got a socket interface which accepts only one sort of plug object! Sockets usually are not polymorphic.

Life could be a lot simpler for everybody is that if we had sockets that might settle for many several types of plugs. We could make the socket interface polymorphic by creating completely different formed slits. You can see in the picture under how this has been finished.


Polymorphism helps us to create extra common interfaces.

Explanation with Code

Any object that has an IS-A relationship is taken into account polymorphic. You have an IS-A relationship by way of inheritance (utilizing the extends key phrase in the category signature), or by way of interfaces (utilizing the implements key phrase in the category signature).

To perceive polymorphism utterly, you must perceive inheritance and interfaces as nicely.

class Dog extends Animal implements Canine{
 // ... some code right here

Based on the snippet above, a Dog has the next IS-A relationships: Animal, Canine, and Object (each class implicitly inherits from the Object class, which sounds a bit ridiculous!).

Let’s give a easy (foolish) instance for instance how we will use to polymorphism to simplify our code. We wish to create an app with an interrogator that may persuade any animal to speak.


We will create an Interrogator class that’s chargeable for convincing the animals to speak. We do not wish to write a way for every sort of animal: persuadeDogToDiscuss(Dog canine), persuadeCatToDiscuss(Cat cat), and so forth.

We would like one basic methodology that might settle for any animal. How can we do that?

class Interrogator{
    public static void persuadeToDiscuss(Animal topic) {

// We don't need anybody creating an animal object!
summary class Animal {
    public summary void speak();

class Dog extends Animal {
    public void speak() {

class Cat extends Animal {
    public void speak() {

public class App {
    public static void principal(String[] args){
        Dog canine = new Dog();
        Cat cat = new Cat();
        Animal animal = new Dog();
        Interrogator.persuadeToDiscuss(canine); //prints "Woof!"
        Interrogator.persuadeToDiscuss(cat); //prints "Meow!"
        Interrogator.persuadeToDiscuss(animal); //prints "Woof!"

We create the persuadeToDiscuss methodology to just accept an Animal object as a parameter. Inside the tactic we name the speak methodology of that object. As lengthy as the article sort is an Animal or a subclass of Animal, the compiler is joyful.

The Java Virtual Machine (JVM) decides at runtime which methodology shall be referred to as based mostly on the category of the article. If the article has a sort of Dog, the JVM invokes the implementation that claims “Woof!”.

This pays off in 2 methods:

  1. We solely want to jot down one basic methodology. We need not do any sort checking.
  2. In the longer term, if we create a brand new animal sort, we need not modify the Interrogator class.

This sort of polymorphism is known as overriding.


The instance we mentioned already coated the broad idea of overriding. Let’s give a proper definition and extra specifics.

Overriding is if you create a special implementation of the very same occasion methodology (equivalent methodology signature) in a associated class.

At runtime, the tactic of the object sort is chosen. This is why overriding can be known as runtime polymorphism.

Overriding is achieved by offering a special implementation of a way in a toddler class (subclass), which is outlined in its dad or mum class (superclass).

overriding inheritance

Overriding can be achieved by offering completely different implementations of a way outlined in an interface.

overriding interface

Rules for overriding a way:

  1. It have to be a way outlined by way of an IS-A relationship (by way of extends or implements). This is why chances are you’ll discover it known as subtype polymorphism.
  2. It should have the identical argument checklist as the unique methodology defintion.
  3. It should have the identical return sort, or a return sort that may be a subclass of the return sort of the unique methodology defintion.
  4. It can’t have a extra restrictive entry modifier.
  5. It might have a much less restrictive entry modifier.
  6. It should not throw a brand new or broader checked exception.
  7. It might throw narrower, fewer or no checked exceptions, for instance a way that declares a IOException could be overridden by a way that declares a FileNotFoundException (as a result of it’s a subclass of IOException).
  8. The overriding methodology can throw any unchecked exception, no matter whether or not the overridden methodology declares the exception.

Recommendation: Use the @override annotation when overriding strategies. It offers compile-time error-checking on the tactic signature. This will show you how to keep away from breaking the foundations listed above.

override annotation

Prohibiting overriding

If you don’t need a methodology to be overridden, declare it as closing.

class Account {
    public closing void withdraw(double quantity) {
        double newBalance = stability - quantity;
        if(newBalance > 0){
        	stability = newBalance;

Static strategies

You can’t override a static methodology. You are actually creating an impartial definition of the tactic in a associated class.

class A {
    public static void print() {
        System.out.println("in A");

class B extends A {
    public static void print() {
        System.out.println("in B");

class Test {
    public static void principal(String[] args) {
        A myObject = new B();
        myObject.print(); // prints “in A”

Running the Test class in the instance above will print “in A”. This demonstrates overriding shouldn’t be occurring right here.

If you alter the print methodology in lessons A and B to be an occasion methodology by eradicating static from the tactic signature, and run the Test class once more, it’s going to print “in B” as a substitute! Overriding is going on now.

Remember, overriding choses the tactic based mostly on the article sort, not the variable sort. 🧐

Overloading (purposeful polymorphism)

Overloading is if you create completely different variations of the identical methodology.

The title of the tactic have to be the identical, however we will change the parameters
and return sort.

In Java’s Math class, you’ll discover many examples of overloaded strategies. The max methodology is overloaded for various varieties. In all circumstances, it’s returning the quantity with the best worth from the two values supplied, nevertheless it does it for various (unrelated) quantity varieties.


The (reference) variable sort is what determines which overloaded methodology shall be chosen. Overloading is finished at compile time.

Overloaded strategies present extra flexibility for folks utilizing your class. People utilizing your class might have information in completely different codecs, or might have completely different information out there to them relying on completely different conditions in their utility.

For instance, the List class overloads the take away methodology. A List is an ordered assortment of objects. So, chances are you’ll wish to take away an object at a specific place (index) in a listing. Or chances are you’ll not know the place, and simply wish to take away the article wherever it’s. So that is why it has 2 variations.


Constructors could be overloaded additionally.

For instance, the Scanner class has many alternative inputs that may be supplied for creating an object. Below is a small snapshot of the constructors that cater to this.


Rules for overloading a way:

  1. It should have a special argument checklist.
  2. It might have a special return sort.
  3. It might have completely different entry modifiers.
  4. It might throw completely different exceptions.
  5. Methods from a superclass could be overloaded in a subclass.

Differences between overriding and overloading

  1. Overriding have to be based mostly on a way from an IS-A relationship, overloading does not should be. Overloading can happen inside a single class.
  2. Overridden strategies are chosen based mostly on the article sort, whereas overloaded strategies are chosen based mostly on the (reference) variable sort.
  3. Overriding happens at run-time, whereas overloading happens at compile-time.

Parametric polymorphism

Parameteric polymorphism is achieved by way of generics in Java.

Generics have been added to the language in model 5.0. They have been designed to increase Java’s sort system to permit “a type or method to operate on objects of various types while providing compile-time type safety”.

Basically, a generic type of a category or methodology can have all of its varieties changed.

A easy instance is ArrayList. The class definition has a generic in it, and it’s signified by <E>. Some of the occasion strategies comparable to add use this generic sort in their signatures.

arraylist class definition

arraylist definition add methods

By offering a sort in angle brackets once we create an ArrayList object, we fill in the generic references outlined all through the category. So, if we create an ArrayList with the Dog generic sort, the add methodology will solely settle for a Dog object as an argument.

arraylist dog method signature

There is a compile-time error in case you attempt to add something apart from a Dog! If you utilize a code editor comparable to IntelliJ, you’re going to get the purple squiggly line to focus on your offense (as under).

arraylist type checking

Final Words

Polymorphism is a difficult subject to come back to grips with, particularly when you find yourself new to programming. It takes a while to establish the best conditions to make use of it in your code.

But when you get snug with it, you’ll discover it improves your code loads.

Photo Attribution

Banner Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash.


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