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super() in Python: What Does It Do?

In Python, super() method makes it possible to access the members of a parent class.

To understand what is a parent class, you need to know what class inheritance means.

Before jumping into the details, let’s see a quick example of using the super() method.

For instance:

class Pet():
    def hello(self): print("Hello, I am a Pet")

class Cat(Pet):
    def say(self):
        super().hello()
        
luna = Cat()
luna.say()

Output:

Hello, I am a Pet

In this piece of code:

  • The Pet class defines a method called hello().
  • The Cat class inherits the Pet class.
  • The Cat class implements a say() method that calls the hello() method from the Pet class.
  • This is possible via the super() method.

In this guide, we are going to take a deeper look at how the super() method works in Python.

To truly understand super(), you need to understand what is inheritance in Python.

Class Inheritance in Python: A Quick Introduction

Python is an object-oriented programming language.

One of the main features of an object-oriented language like Python is class inheritance.

Python supports class inheritance, also called subclassing.

The idea behind the class inheritance is to create a parent class-child class hierarchy.

In other words, the members of the parent class are inherited to the child class.

To put it short, inheritance lets you reuse code.

But why reuse code?

You should always try to avoid repeating yourself in code.

Sometimes your Python objects are related to one another.

In this case, it would be useless if you had to repeat yourself and re-implement methods from one class to another class.

In this case, you can use inheritance.

A great example of inheritance would be a PersonStudent relationship in the code.

  • Lets’s say your code has two classes, Person and Student.
  • As you know, each Student is also a Person.
  • Thus, it makes sense to inherit all the properties of a Person to an Student.

For example:

class Person:
    def __init__(self, name, age):
        self.name = name
        self.age = age
    
    def introduce(self):
        print(f"Hello, my name is {self.name}. I am {self.age} years old.")

class Student(Person):
    def __init__(self, name, age, graduation_year):
        # DO not worry about the next line, we will come back to it very soon!
        super().__init__(name, age)
        self.graduation_year = graduation_year
    
    def graduates(self):
        print(f"{self.name} will graduate in {self.graduation_year}")

Now you can use this setup to create Student objects that can use the Person classes introduce() method.

For instance:

alice = Student("Alice", 30, 2023)
alice.introduce()
alice.graduates()

Output:

Hello, my name is Alice. I am 30 years old.
Alice will graduate in 2023

In this piece of code:

  • alice.introuce() is called from the parent class of Student, that is, Person.
  • alice.graduates() is called directly from the Student class itself.

This demonstrates well how inheritance works.

Each Student is a Person. It makes sense to give the properties of a Person directly to the Student, instead of re-implementing them in the Student class.

Now you understand what inheritance is in Python.

Next, let’s take a look at how the super() method works.

The super() in Python

Super in Python lets you to access parent class methods.

To access parent class properties from the subclass, you need to use the super() method.

The super() is an explicit reference to the base class. It links your parent class to the child class.

Anything found in the parent class can be accessed in the child class via the super() method.

The most common example of using the super() method is upon initialization.

In the previous chapter, you already saw an example of this.

Now, let’s take a deeper look at how it works.

The super().__init__() Call in Python

When you initialize a child class in Python, you can call the super().__init__() method. This initializes the parent class object into the child class.

In addition to this, you can add child-specific information to the child object as well.

Here is what it generally looks like:

class Parent: 
    def init(v1, v2):
        self.v1 = v1
        self.v2 = v2

class Child(Parent):
    def init(v1, v2, v3):
        super().__init__(v1, v2)
        self.v3 = v3

Here:

  • The Parent class has properties v1 and v2. They are initialized in the parent classes init() method.
  • The Child class inhertis the Parent class.
  • The Child class initializes the Parent class object
  • The Child class also initializes itself by specifying a new property v3 that only belongs to it, not to the Parent.

Let’s take a look at a more concrete example.

Let’s say we have a class that represents a person.

Each person has a name and age.

Furthermore, each Person object has the ability to introduce themselves using the introduce() method.

Here is what the Person class looks like:

class Person:
    def __init__(self, name, age):
        self.name = name
        self.age = age
    
    def introduce(self):
        print(f"Hello, my name is {self.name}. I am {self.age} years old.")

This class acts as a blueprint for creating Person objects in our code.

Now, let’s say we also want to represent students in our program.

To do this, we need a new class for student objects.

More specifically, each student should:

  1. Have a name, age, and a graduation year.
  2. Be able to introduce themselves.
  3. Tell when they are going to graduate.

We could write a completely separate class like this:

class Student(Person):
    def __init__(self, name, age, graduation_year):
        self.name = name
        self.age = age
        self.graduation_year = graduation_year

    def introduce(self):
        print(f"Hello, my name is {self.name}. I am {self.age} years old.")
    
    def graduates(self):
        print(f"{self.name} will graduate in {self.graduation_year}")

Even though this works, there is a problem.

This code is now repetitive.

The introduce() method was already implemented in the Person class. Also, the init() method looks pretty similar.

We can improve the code by using inheritance.

The first thing to notice is that each Student is also a Person, which makes sense.

Thus we can inherit the properties of a Person to the Student class directly.

Let’s then add a new member, graduation_year, to the Student object. In addition, we need a method to display this.

So when it comes to initializing the Student object, we can:

  • Initialize the Person object in the Student. This happens with the super().__init__() call. This gives the name and age to the Student object.
  • Initialize the Student-specific graduation year.

Here is the improved version of the Student class that utilizes inheritance.

class Student(Person):
    def __init__(self, name, age, graduation_year):
        # 1. Initialize the Person object in Student.
        super().__init__(name, age)
        # 2. Initialize the graduation_year
        self.graduation_year = graduation_year

    # Add a method that tells when this Student is going to graduate.
    def graduates(self):
        print(f"{self.name} will graduate in {self.graduation_year}")

Pay close attention to the super().__init__(name, age) call.

This calls the __init__() method of the parent class, Person.

In other words, it initializes a Person object into the Student object.

The super() Method in Multiple Inheritance

You can also streamline the process of initializing multiple classes with the help of the super() method.

In other words, you can use the super() method in multiple subclasses to access the common parent classes properties.

super() in Python

For instance, let’s create a hierarchy such that a Person object is inherited to Student and Employee.

Here is how it looks in code:

class Person:
    def __init__(self, name, age):
        self.name = name
        self.age = age
    
    def introduce(self):
        print(f"Hello, my name is {self.name}. I am {self.age} years old.")

# Subclass 1.
class Student(Person):
    def __init__(self, name, age, graduation_year):
        super().__init__(name, age)
        self.graduation_year = graduation_year
    
    def graduates(self):
        print(f"{self.name} will graduate in {self.graduation_year}")

# Subclass 2.
class Employee(Person):
    def __init__(self, name, age, start_year):
        super().__init__(name, age)
        self.start_year = start_year
    
    def graduates(self):
        print(f"{self.name} started working in {self.start_year}")

Access Regular Inherited Methods with Super()

In a couple of last examples, you saw how to use the super() method to call the initializer of the parent class.

It is important to notice you can access any other method too.

For example, let’s modify the Person-Student example a bit. Let’s create an info() method for the Student class. This method:

  • Calls the introduce() method from the parent class to introduce itself.
  • Shows the graduation year.

To call the introduce() method from the parent class, use the super() method to access it.

Here is how it looks in code:

class Person:
    def __init__(self, name, age):
        self.name = name
        self.age = age
    
    def introduce(self):
        print(f"Hello, my name is {self.name}. I am {self.age} years old.")

# Subclass 1.
class Student(Person):
    def __init__(self, name, age, graduation_year):
        super().__init__(name, age)
        self.graduation_year = graduation_year
    
    def info(self):
        # Call the Person classes introduce() method to introduce this Student.
        super().introduce()
        print(f"{self.name} will graduate in {self.graduation_year}")
        
alice = Student("Alice", 30, 2023)
alice.info()

Output:

Hello, my name is Alice. I am 30 years old.
Alice will graduate in 2023

As you can see, now it is possible to call the info() method on a Student object to see the introduction and the graduation year prints.

So the super() method can be useful in many ways in Python.

This completes our guide.

Conclusion

Today you learned what the super() method does in Python.

To recap, the super() method links a parent class to its child class.

You can access all the properties in the parent class via the super() method.

Thanks for reading.

Happy coding!

Further Reading

50 Python Interview Questions

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