What’s the difference?
means to call
means to call a bound
__init__ from the parent class that follows
SomeBaseClass‘s child class (the one that defines this method) in the instance’s Method Resolution Order (MRO).
If the instance is a subclass of this child class, there may be a different parent that comes next in the MRO.
When you write a class, you want other classes to be able to use it.
super() makes it easier for other classes to use the class you’re writing.
As Bob Martin says, a good architecture allows you to postpone decision making as long as possible.
super() can enable that sort of architecture.
When another class subclasses the class you wrote, it could also be inheriting from other classes. And those classes could have an
__init__ that comes after this
__init__ based on the ordering of the classes for method resolution.
super you would likely hard-code the parent of the class you’re writing (like the example does). This would mean that you would not call the next
__init__ in the MRO, and you would thus not get to reuse the code in it.
If you’re writing your own code for personal use, you may not care about this distinction. But if you want others to use your code, using
super is one thing that allows greater flexibility for users of the code.
Python 2 versus 3
This works in Python 2 and 3:
This only works in Python 3:
It works with no arguments by moving up in the stack frame and getting the first argument to the method (usually
self for an instance method or
cls for a class method – but could be other names) and finding the class (e.g.
Child) in the free variables (it is looked up with the name
__class__ as a free closure variable in the method).
I used to prefer to demonstrate the cross-compatible way of using
super, but now that Python 2 is largely deprecated, I will demonstrate the Python 3 way of doing things, that is, calling
super with no arguments.
Indirection with Forward Compatibility
What does it give you? For single inheritance, the examples from the question are practically identical from a static analysis point of view. However, using
super gives you a layer of indirection with forward compatibility.
Forward compatibility is very important to seasoned developers. You want your code to keep working with minimal changes as you change it. When you look at your revision history, you want to see precisely what changed when.
You may start off with single inheritance, but if you decide to add another base class, you only have to change the line with the bases – if the bases change in a class you inherit from (say a mixin is added) you’d change nothing in this class.
In Python 2, getting the arguments to
super and the correct method arguments right can be a little confusing, so I suggest using the Python 3 only method of calling it.
If you know you’re using
super correctly with single inheritance, that makes debugging less difficult going forward.
Other people can use your code and inject parents into the method resolution:
Say you add another class to your object, and want to inject a class between Foo and Bar (for testing or some other reason):
class UnsuperInjector(UnsuperChild, InjectMe): pass
class SuperInjector(SuperChild, InjectMe): pass
Using the un-super child fails to inject the dependency because the child you’re using has hard-coded the method to be called after its own:
>>> o = UnsuperInjector()
However, the class with the child that uses
super can correctly inject the dependency:
>>> o2 = SuperInjector()
Addressing a comment
Why in the world would this be useful?
Python linearizes a complicated inheritance tree via the C3 linearization algorithm to create a Method Resolution Order (MRO).
We want methods to be looked up in that order.
For a method defined in a parent to find the next one in that order without
super, it would have to
- get the mro from the instance’s type
- look for the type that defines the method
- find the next type with the method
- bind that method and call it with the expected arguments
UnsuperChildshould not have access to
InjectMe. Why isn’t the conclusion “Always avoid using
super“? What am I missing here?
UnsuperChild does not have access to
InjectMe. It is the
UnsuperInjector that has access to
InjectMe – and yet cannot call that class’s method from the method it inherits from
Both Child classes intend to call a method by the same name that comes next in the MRO, which might be another class it was not aware of when it was created.
The one without
super hard-codes its parent’s method – thus is has restricted the behavior of its method, and subclasses cannot inject functionality in the call chain.
The one with
super has greater flexibility. The call chain for the methods can be intercepted and functionality injected.
You may not need that functionality, but subclassers of your code may.
super to reference the parent class instead of hard-coding it.
What you intend is to reference the parent class that is next-in-line, not specifically the one you see the child inheriting from.
super can put unnecessary constraints on users of your code.