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Difference Between Inheritance and Interfaces in Java

Java ranks as one of the most well-liked and often used languages in the field of object-oriented programming. In past couple of years, Java has been a mainstay in software development thanks to its powerful and adaptable capabilities.

In Java, inheritance and interfaces are two fundamental ideas that are crucial to the language's object-oriented paradigm. Both are crucial to the design and organization of Java programs, but each has a unique function and set of traits. We shall examine how inheritance and interfaces differ in Java in this section.


The Java programming language makes extensive use of inheritance, a key idea in object-oriented programming. It enables one class, referred to as the child or superclass, to inherit the traits and characteristics of another class. The term "child" or "subclass" refers to the class from which certain traits and behaviors are inherited. Several essential traits of Java's inheritance system are listed below:

  • Code Reusability: Inheritance promotes code reusability by allowing you to create a new class that inherits all the fields and methods of an existing class. This helps avoid redundancy in code.
  • "Is-A" Relationship: Inheritance establishes an "is-a" relationship between the parent and child classes. For example, if you have a superclass called "Vehicle" and a subclass called "Car," you can say that a Car is a Vehicle.
  • Method Overriding: Subclasses can override (redefine) methods inherited from their superclass. It allows for customization of behavior while maintaining a consistent interface.
  • Single Inheritance: Java supports single inheritance, which means a class can only inherit from one superclass. This limitation is in place to prevent the diamond problem, a common issue in multiple inheritance.

Here's a simple example of inheritance in Java:

In this example, the Dog class inherits the eat method from the Animal class.


In Java, an interface acts as a kind of contract that outlines the set of methods that a class is required to implement. It establishes guidelines that classes should adhere to in order to maintain a unified API. The essential traits of interfaces in Java are as follows:

  • Multiple Inheritance: Unlike classes, a Java class can implement multiple interfaces. This feature allows a class to inherit behavior from multiple sources.
  • No Implementation: Interfaces declare methods but do not provide any implementation. The responsibility of implementing these methods falls on the classes that implement the interface.
  • "Can-Do" Relationship: Interfaces establish a "can-do" relationship. A class that implements an interface can "do" everything specified by that interface.
  • Polymorphism: Interfaces enable polymorphism, allowing us to work with objects of different classes that implement the same interface using a common reference.

Here's a simple example of an interface in Java:

In this example, the Circle class implements the Shape interface, providing implementations for the area and perimeter methods.

Key Differences:

Now, we have explored both inheritance and interfaces in Java, let's summarize the key differences between them:

Purpose: Inheritance is used to create a hierarchy of classes and promote code reuse, while interfaces define a contract for classes to implement a specific set of methods.

Number of Super classes: A class can inherit from only one superclass but can implement multiple interfaces.

Method Implementation: Inheritance provides method implementations in the superclass, while interfaces declare methods without implementation, leaving it to the implementing classes.

Relationship: Inheritance establishes an "is-a" relationship, while interfaces establish a "can-do" relationship.

Use Cases: When developing a new class that has traits in common with an existing class, use inheritance. When multiple inheritance is required or we need to make sure that various classes abide by a common contract, use interfaces.


In Java's object-oriented programming paradigm, inheritance and interfaces are both fundamental ideas. Designing well-structured and maintainable Java programs requires knowing when to use each one and how to do so effectively. When compared to interfaces, which make polymorphism and multiple inheritance possible, inheritance offers a method for code reuse and hierarchy while allowing for flexible and extensible code designs.

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