At a fairly abstract level,
super() provides the access to those methods of the super-class (parent class) which have been overridden in a sub-class (child class) that inherits from it. Consider the code example given below, here we have a class named
Square and an another class named
Cube which inherits the class
Cube class does not have an
__init__() method, the
Square class will be used for initialization of
Cube instances (basic property of inheritance).
Considering this example, we know that each face of a cube is a square and hence,
face_area of Cube represents
area of a Square. Now, it makes sense to evaluate
area() method of the class
Square rather than calculating it manually, not only this will save us from rewriting the code but also it will allow to change the
area() logic from one place. But as we have overridden the
area() method in
Cube, we cannot call
area() method of
Now, this is a situation where
super() comes in rescue.
super() returns a proxy object of the parent class and then you call the method of your choice on that proxy object, thus, we can call the
area() method of
Square class using
super().area(). Here follows a modified definition of the
Note that we could have called the
Square method as
Square.area() rather than
super().area() but the latter maker is easier to swap out the super-class or rename it when required, making the code much easier to maintain.
Passing arguments in
In the previous section, we discussed how to use
super() without any parameters, but that only provides us access to the methods of that super-class which is the immediate parent of the sub-class.
To access the methods of that super-class which is not an immediate parent of the sub-class, we use
super() with two arguments. Let’s consider an example of three classes named
Cube to understand how to use
super() with arguments.
Now, a cube is just a special type of square prism whose height is equal to the side of it’s base, and hence a Cube resembles a SquarePrism much more than it resembles a Square. Therefore, in this example the
class Cube will inherit the
class SquarePrism, and the
class will inherit the
class Square. For class
Square we’ll use the same definition we used in the previous section. Given below is the definition of our newly defined class,
SquarePrism instance has two attributes, the side of it’s square base and the height of the square prism. The instance method
face_area() returns a tuple of two numbers representing the base area of the square prism and the lateral area of the square prism. Since the base is a square, for base area of the square prism, we call the method
area() method returns the total surface area of the square prism.
Until now, we have used
super() without any parameters, now follows the definition of the new class
Cube which will demonstrate the use of
super() with parameters.
Unlike the methods
face_area() method of
Cube is somewhat different from its counter-part
SquarePrism.face_area(). For a cube the lateral area is equal to the base area and hence, it is not meaningful for the
face_area() method to return a tuple, therefore, the
face_area() of the
class Cube will return the area of one of the cube faces.
Now, since each face of the cube is a square, it is again meaningful to use the
area() method of the
class Square. Now, since the
class Square is not an immediate parent of the
class Cube, we cannot access the
area() method of the
class Square as
super().area() as it will call the method
Here we use
super(SquarePrism, self).face_area() to call the
area() method of the
class Square. In the first argument,
SquarePrism signifies that
super() searches for the
area() method in the immediate parent of the class
SquarePrism, that is in the
class Square. The use of
self as the second parameter provides the context of the current
Cube object to
super() for the requested
area() method to act upon.
Remember that, to use
super() in two argument form, it is necessary that the object passed as the second argument is an instance of the
type passed as first argument.
Note: Since the class
Cube is a child of the
class SquarePrism, a
Cube instance is also an instance of the
class SquarePrism and the
Try the following code snippet and observe the output for the clarification of the above point.
It is worthwhile to note that the zero argument form of
super() can only be used inside a class definition as it is auto-filled by the compiler with the appropriate paremeters, i.e. if we use
super() inside a class, say
super() will be converted into
super(X, self) by the compiler.
While the zero-argument form of
super() is popular among developers the two argument form might not seem to be of much use for now. But in multiple inheritance, the two argument form plays a very important role.
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