extends keyword in Java – Complete guide

extends keyword in Java – Complete guide

Java, renowned for its robustness and object-oriented capabilities, stands as a cornerstone in the world of programming languages. Diving into its core, one can’t overlook the profound impact of inheritance—a feature that not only streamlines code but also enhances its scalability. Central to this mechanism is the extends keyword, a pivotal element in Java’s inheritance model.


Java, as an Object-Oriented Programming (OOP) language, offers a structured approach to design and organize software programs. It encapsulates data and operations, providing a blueprint for objects. Inheritance, a key pillar of OOP in Java, allows for a hierarchical organization of classes, promoting code reusability and logical structure. The extends keyword plays a crucial role in this architecture, enabling classes to inherit properties and behaviors from other classes, thereby forging a parent-child relationship.

Understanding the Extends Keyword

In Java, the extends keyword is used to declare a class that inherits from another class, known as the superclass. This inheritance mechanism allows the subclass to inherit fields and methods from the superclass. The syntax for using extends is straightforward: a subclass is declared with the class keyword followed by its name, the extends keyword, and the superclass name. This structure forms the backbone of class inheritance in Java, providing a clear hierarchy and an efficient way to share code.

Inheritance in Java

Basic Concepts of Inheritance

In Java’s inheritance model, the superclass (or parent class) provides a general form that is shared by its subclasses (or child classes). The subclass inherits all accessible attributes and methods from the superclass, and can also add its own specific features.

Types of Inheritance in Java

Java supports single inheritance, meaning that a class can only inherit from one superclass. This constraint simplifies the inheritance structure and avoids complexities like the Diamond Problem, which occurs in languages supporting multiple inheritance.

Role of Extends in Code Reusability

The extends keyword enhances code reusability, allowing subclasses to use methods and variables from their superclasses. It also facilitates method overriding, where a subclass provides a specific implementation for a method already defined in its superclass.

Implementing Inheritance Using Extends

Creating Superclass and Subclass

To implement inheritance, define a superclass with general attributes and methods, and then create a subclass using the extends keyword. For example:

class Vehicle {
// Vehicle properties and methods

class Car extends Vehicle {
// Car specific properties and methods

Method Overriding

Method overriding occurs when a subclass provides a specific implementation for a method that is already defined in its superclass. This is a powerful feature for achieving polymorphic behavior in Java.

Access Modifiers and Inheritance

Access modifiers (public, protected, private) in Java control the visibility of class members. In the context of inheritance, protected and public members of the superclass are accessible to the subclass.

Constructors and Inheritance

In Java, constructors are not directly inherited by subclasses. However, the constructor of the superclass can be called from the subclass constructor to initialize states inherited from the superclass.

Inheritance Hierarchies and the Extends Keyword

In Java, it’s possible to create multi-level inheritance hierarchies using the extends keyword. In such hierarchies, a class can be a superclass for one class and a subclass of another, forming complex but structured class relationships

Special Cases and Considerations

Extends and Interfaces

In Java, the extends keyword is primarily used to establish a subclass from a superclass. However, when it comes to interfaces, extends takes on a slightly different role. Unlike classes, an interface can extend multiple other interfaces. This feature allows for a more flexible and modular approach to interface design. It’s crucial to note that when an interface extends another, it inherits the abstract methods of the parent interface. Consequently, any class that implements the child interface must provide concrete implementations for these inherited abstract methods.

Limitations of Extends

One of the key limitations of the extends keyword in Java is its restriction on multiple inheritance. Unlike some other programming languages, Java does not allow a class to inherit from more than one class. This design decision was made to keep the language simpler and avoid the complexity and ambiguity associated with multiple inheritance as seen in languages like C++. To overcome this limitation, Java offers interfaces, allowing a class to implement multiple interfaces and thereby achieve a form of multiple inheritance.

Extends vs Implements

The extends and implements keywords in Java serve different purposes but are often used in conjunction. While extends is used for extending a class (i.e., creating a subclass), implements is used for implementing an interface. A key difference lies in the nature of inheritance and implementation. Extending a class means inheriting its methods and attributes, whereas implementing an interface involves providing concrete implementations of the interface’s abstract methods. It’s a fundamental concept in Java’s approach to polymorphism and abstraction.

Common Pitfalls and How to Avoid Them

Common Mistakes

Common mistakes with the extends keyword often stem from misunderstandings of inheritance. For instance, overloading methods when overriding was intended, or not properly using the super keyword to access methods and constructors of the superclass. Another frequent error is the misuse of access modifiers, which can lead to unintended access to methods or variables. Developers should adhere to best practices like using @Override annotations for method overriding to avoid such errors.

Debugging Tips

Debugging inheritance-related issues requires a clear understanding of the class hierarchy and method overriding principles. Tools like the debugger in Integrated Development Environments (IDEs) can be immensely helpful. These tools allow step-by-step execution and inspection of method calls and variable states, making it easier to track down the source of inheritance-related bugs.

Advanced Topics

Abstract Classes and Extends

The extends keyword plays a crucial role in dealing with abstract classes in Java. An abstract class, unlike a regular class, cannot be instantiated on its own and is designed to be a superclass. When a class extends an abstract class, it inherits its methods and is obliged to provide implementations for all its abstract methods, unless it is also declared as abstract.

Overriding vs Hiding Methods

Method overriding occurs when a subclass provides a specific implementation for a method that is already defined in its superclass. However, method hiding is different. It occurs when a subclass declares a static method with the same signature as a static method in the superclass. Understanding the distinction is vital for proper inheritance implementation and avoiding common pitfalls.

Polymorphism and Extends

Polymorphism is a fundamental concept in object-oriented programming, and the extends keyword is instrumental in its implementation in Java. By allowing a subclass to define its specific behavior while maintaining a common interface as its superclass, polymorphism enables methods to use instances of different classes interchangeably.

Real-world Applications

In real-world software development, the extends keyword finds extensive use in creating a well-structured, hierarchical organization of classes. For example, in creating GUI applications, a base class might provide basic functionalities, while subclasses extend these functionalities for specific components. Understanding the practical applications of inheritance can significantly improve the design and maintainability of software.


In conclusion, the extends keyword is a cornerstone of Java’s inheritance mechanism. Its strategic use, coupled with a clear understanding of its interactions with interfaces, limitations, and its role in polymorphism, can greatly enhance the design and functionality of Java applications. The distinction between extends and implements, and the correct application of overriding and method hiding, are critical for effective Java programming.


  1. Can a Java class extend multiple classes?
    No, Java does not support multiple inheritance of classes. A class can only extend one other class.
  2. What happens when a subclass extends an abstract class?
    The subclass inherits all abstract and non-abstract methods from the abstract class and must provide implementations for all inherited abstract methods.

Sharing is caring

Did you like what Pranav wrote? Thank them for their work by sharing it on social media.


No comments so far