Inheritance in Python

This article describes Inheritance in Python

11/12/20234 min read

Inheritance, a key concept in object-oriented programming (OOP), plays a fundamental role in Python's design philosophy Python supports both single and multiple inheritance, allowing classes to inherit attributes and methods from other classes In this comprehensive exploration, we will delve into the principles of inheritance, the syntax used in Python, and best practices for leveraging this powerful OOP feature

Principles of Inheritance


At its core, inheritance promotes code reusability A class in Python can inherit attributes and methods from another class, reducing redundancy and enabling the creation of modular and maintainable code This not only enhances development efficiency but also contributes to the overall readability and organization of the codebase


Inheritance facilitates extensibility by allowing the creation of new classes based on existing ones A new class, known as the subclass, can inherit the attributes and behaviors of a parent class, known as the superclass Developers can then extend or override methods, properties, or behaviors in the subclass to meet specific requirements without modifying the original code


Polymorphism, a key principle of OOP, is closely related to inheritance It allows objects of different classes to be treated as objects of a common base class In Python, polymorphism enables the same method name to be used across different classes, each implementing the method according to its specific context This flexibility enhances the readability and adaptability of the code

Syntax of Inheritance in Python

class and super() Function

In Python, the class keyword is used to define a new class, and inheritance is established by specifying the superclass in parentheses after the class name The super() function is then used to refer to the superclass within the subclass Here's a basic example:

class Animal:

def eat(self):

print("This animal eats food")

class Dog(Animal):

def bark(self):

print("The dog barks")

In this example, the Dog class inherits from the Animal class The super() function is not explicitly used in this case, as the Dog class does not override the eat method of the Animal class

super() Function for Method Overriding

When a method in the subclass overrides a method in the superclass, the super() function is often used to invoke the overridden method from the superclass Here's an example:

class Animal:

def eat(self):

print("This animal eats food")

class Dog(Animal):

def eat(self):

super()eat() invoking the eat method of the superclass

print("The dog eats bones")

In this example, the Dog class overrides the eat method from the Animal class but also calls the eat method of the superclass using super()eat() before adding its specific behavior

Multiple Inheritance

Python supports multiple inheritance, allowing a class to inherit from more than one superclass In the case of conflicts, where methods with the same name exist in multiple superclasses, the method resolution order (MRO) determines which method is called Here's a simple example:

class Mammal:

def give_birth(self):

print("Mammals give birth to live young")

class Bird:

def lay_eggs(self):

print("Birds lay eggs")

class Platypus(Mammal, Bird):

pass Platypus inherits from both Mammal and Bird

In this example, the Platypus class inherits from both Mammal and Bird It can access methods from both superclasses

Types of Inheritance

Single Inheritance

In single inheritance, a class can inherit from only one superclass This is the most common type of inheritance in Python For example:

class Vehicle:

def move(self):

print("This vehicle can move")

class Car(Vehicle):

def honk(self):

print("The car honks")

In this example, the Car class inherits from the Vehicle class, establishing a single inheritance relationship

Multiple Inheritance

In multiple inheritance, a class can inherit from more than one superclass This allows the subclass to combine the features of multiple classes For example:

class A:

def method_a(self):

print("Method A from class A")

class B:

def method_b(self):

print("Method B from class B")

class C(A, B):

pass C inherits from both A and B

Here, the C class inherits from both A and B, gaining access to methods from both superclasses

Multilevel Inheritance

In multilevel inheritance, a class inherits from another class, and then a third class inherits from the second class This forms a chain of inheritance For example:

class Animal:

def eat(self):

print("This animal eats food")

class Mammal(Animal):

def give_birth(self):

print("Mammals give birth to live young")

class Dog(Mammal):

def bark(self):

print("The dog barks")

Here, the Dog class inherits from both Mammal and Animal, creating a multilevel inheritance relationship

Best Practices for Inheritance in Python

Favor Composition over Inheritance

The Python community often emphasizes the principle of "favor composition over inheritance" While inheritance is powerful, excessive use can lead to complex hierarchies that are hard to understand and maintain Composition, where objects are composed of other objects, is often more flexible and modular, promoting better code organization and reducing coupling

Use Abstract Base Classes (ABCs)

Python provides the abc module for defining Abstract Base Classes (ABCs) Abstract classes can define abstract methods that must be implemented by subclasses Using ABCs can provide a clear contract for subclasses and help avoid common pitfalls associated with multiple inheritance

from abc import ABC, abstractmethod

class Shape(ABC):


def area(self):


class Circle(Shape):

def area(self):

print("Calculating the area of a circle")

Follow the Liskov Substitution Principle (LSP)

The Liskov Substitution Principle, one of the SOLID principles, states that objects of a superclass should be replaceable with objects of a subclass without affecting the correctness of the program In Python, this means that a subclass should extend the behavior of its superclass without altering its intended functionality Adhering to the LSP ensures the consistent behavior of classes within an inheritance hierarchy

Use super() Judiciously

The super() function is a powerful tool for calling methods from the superclass However, it should be used judiciously to avoid unexpected behavior Carefully consider the method resolution order (MRO) and the design of the class hierarchy when using super()

Keep Inheritance Hierarchies Simple

Strive for simplicity in inheritance hierarchies Complex hierarchies can make code harder to understand and maintain If a class needs to inherit from multiple sources of behavior, consider using composition or interfaces to achieve the desired functionality


Inheritance is a cornerstone of Python's object-oriented programming paradigm, offering developers a powerful tool for code reuse, extensibility, and polymorphism By understanding the principles of inheritance, mastering the syntax in Python, and adhering to best practices, developers can create robust, modular, and maintainable code.The flexibility of inheritance in Python enables the creation of elegant and expressive solutions However, it is crucial to use inheritance judiciously, considering the principles of composition, abstract base classes, and the Liskov Substitution Principle As Python continues to evolve, the effective use of inheritance remains a key aspect of developing scalable and maintainable software solutions

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