Click here to Skip to main content
Click here to Skip to main content

Introduction to inheritance, polymorphism in C#

, 9 Oct 2001 CPOL
Rate this:
Please Sign up or sign in to vote.
An elementary introduction to inheritance, polymorphism in C# using simple code snippets
<link rel="stylesheet" type=text/css href="d:\nish\cp\global.css">


This little article is intended for rank .NET newbies who are making their first attempts at C# programming. I assume that they have done some elementary C++ programming and know what classes and member functions are. Using a few simple code snippets we'll see how C# supports inheritance and polymorphism.

Inheritance & Polymorphism

When you derive a class from a base class, the derived class will inherit all members of the base class except constructors, though whether the derived class would be able to access those members would depend upon the accessibility of those members in the base class. C# gives us polymorphism through inheritance. Inheritance-based polymorphism allows us to define methods in a base class and override them with derived class implementations. Thus if you have a base class object that might be holding one of several derived class objects, polymorphism when properly used allows you to call a method that will work differently according to the type of derived class the object belongs to.

Consider the following class which we'll use as a base class.

class Animal
    public Animal()
        Console.WriteLine("Animal constructor");
    public void Greet()
        Console.WriteLine("Animal says Hello");
    public void Talk()
        Console.WriteLine("Animal talk");
    public virtual void Sing()
        Console.WriteLine("Animal song");

Now see how we derive another class from this base class.

class Dog : Animal
    public Dog()
        Console.WriteLine("Dog constructor");
    public new void Talk()
        Console.WriteLine("Dog talk");
    public override void Sing()
        Console.WriteLine("Dog song");

Now try this code out.

Animal a1 = new Animal();

Animal constructor
Animal talk
Animal song
Animal says Hello

Okay, that came out just as expected. Now try this code out.

Animal a2 = new Dog();

Animal constructor
Dog constructor
Animal talk
Dog song
Animal says Hello

We have an object of type Animal, but it references an object of type Dog. Thus you can see the base class constructor getting called first followed by the derived class constructor. Now we call Talk() and find that the method that's executed is the base class method. That's not surprising when you consider that the object was declared to be of the base type which in our case is Animal. Now when we call Sing(), we find that the derived class method has got called. This is because in the base class the method is prototyped as public virtual void Sing() and in the derived class we have overridden it by using public override void Sing(). In C#, we need to explicitly use the override keyword as opposed to C++ where we didn't have to do that. And finally when we call Greet() the base class method gets called and this is not confusing at all specially since the derived class has not even implemented the method.

Now try the following code out.

Dog d1 = new Dog();

Animal constructor
Dog constructor
Dog talk
Dog song
Animal says Hello

Okay, here everything came out as expected. No rude surprises there. The fact that we could invoke the Greet() method is proof of inheritance in C#, not that anyone had any doubts to begin with I guess. Now take a look at this new class we'll be using as a base class for some other classes.

class Color
    public virtual void Fill()
        Console.WriteLine("Fill me up with color");
    public void Fill(string s)
        Console.WriteLine("Fill me up with {0}",s);

Now run this code out.

Color c1 = new Color();

Fill me up with color
Fill me up with red

Okay, that went fine, I'd say. Now let's derive a class from this class.

class Green : Color
    public override void Fill()
        Console.WriteLine("Fill me up with green");

Now let's try this code out.

Green g1 = new Green();

Fill me up with green
Fill me up with violet

Well, that went fine too. Thus if you have overloaded methods, you can mark some of them as virtual and override them in the derived class. It's not required that you have to override all the overloads. Now I want to demonstrate some stuff on overloaded constructors. For that we'll use the following base class.

class Software
    public Software()
        m_x = 100;
    public Software(int y)
        m_x = y;
    protected int m_x;

Now we'll derive a class from the above class.

class MicrosoftSoftware : Software
    public MicrosoftSoftware()

Now try this code out

MicrosoftSoftware m1 = new MicrosoftSoftware();
//MicrosoftSoftware m2 = new MicrosoftSoftware(300); //won't compile


The base class had two overloaded constructors. One that took zero arguments and one that took an int. In the derived class we only have the zero argument constructor. Constructors are not inherited by derived classes. Thus we cannot instantiate a derived class object using the constructor that takes an int as parameter. As you will deduce from the output we got, the base class constructor that called was the default parameter-less constructor. Now take a look at this second derived class.

class DundasSoftware : Software
    //Here I am telling the compiler which
    //overload of the base constructor to call
    public DundasSoftware(int y) : base(y)
    //Here we are telling the compiler to first
    //call the other overload of the constructor
    public DundasSoftware(string s, int f) : this(f)

Here we have two constructors, one that takes an int and one that takes a string and an int. Now lets try some code out.

DundasSoftware du1 = new DundasSoftware(50);


DundasSoftware du2 = new DundasSoftware("test",75);


There, now that you've seen how it came out, things are a lot clearer I bet. You can use the this and base access keywords on other methods too, and not just on constructors.


This article does not discuss interfaces. At least not in it's current version. I'll probably add the usage of interfaces in the next update. But for now, I recommend that you read up on interfaces from elsewhere.


  • 09 Jul 2002 - Article redone completely, sample project added.
  • 10 Oct 2001 - Article posted [My first article on CP]


This article, along with any associated source code and files, is licensed under The Code Project Open License (CPOL)


About the Author

Nish Sivakumar

United States United States
Nish is a real nice guy who has been writing code since 1990 when he first got his hands on an 8088 with 640 KB RAM. Originally from sunny Trivandrum in India, he has been living in various places over the past few years and often thinks it’s time he settled down somewhere.
Nish has been a Microsoft Visual C++ MVP since October, 2002 - awfully nice of Microsoft, he thinks. He maintains an MVP tips and tricks web site - where you can find a consolidated list of his articles, writings and ideas on VC++, MFC, .NET and C++/CLI. Oh, and you might want to check out his blog on C++/CLI, MFC, .NET and a lot of other stuff -
Nish loves reading Science Fiction, P G Wodehouse and Agatha Christie, and also fancies himself to be a decent writer of sorts. He has authored a romantic comedy Summer Love and Some more Cricket as well as a programming book – Extending MFC applications with the .NET Framework.
Nish's latest book C++/CLI in Action published by Manning Publications is now available for purchase. You can read more about the book on his blog.
Despite his wife's attempts to get him into cooking, his best effort so far has been a badly done omelette. Some day, he hopes to be a good cook, and to cook a tasty dinner for his wife.

Comments and Discussions

GeneralMy vote of 5 Pinmembermajid torfi28-Oct-14 3:20 
GeneralMy vote of 4 PinmemberMember 989351512-Sep-13 23:58 
QuestionThanks Pinmemberhiral kahar14-Jul-13 7:00 
GeneralMy vote of 4 PinprofessionalMohammed Hameed9-May-13 20:44 
Questioni have following question about inheritance PinmemberMember 91131727-Feb-13 5:10 
Questionc sharp programming Pinmembermisbahafridi26-Nov-12 8:39 
GeneralMy vote of 4 Pinmembernilesh.nildata31-Oct-12 1:07 
GeneralMy vote of 5 PinmemberRevaOnwards29-Oct-12 10:54 
GeneralMy vote of 4 Pinmembershak imran20-Sep-12 21:34 
QuestionInheritance and polymorphism in C # PinmemberJyoti516-Sep-12 14:14 
AnswerRe: Inheritance and polymorphism in C # Pinmemberjagadesh43725-Mar-13 20:41 
GeneralMy vote of 3 Pinmemberusrikanthvarma13-Aug-12 3:43 
Article is good but it needs to get into more depth.
GeneralMy vote of 3 Pinmemberhareesh.devunoori3-Aug-12 5:34 
GeneralMy vote of 4 PinmemberApoorva Keshav12-Jul-12 18:55 
GeneralMy vote of 5 PinmemberTapan dubey11-Jun-12 4:16 
GeneralMy vote of 3 Pinmembersankarrbs8-May-12 21:18 
GeneralMy vote of 5 PinmemberTarun K.S7-Jul-11 5:48 
GeneralMy vote of 5 Pinmemberkdchandima12-May-11 5:17 
GeneralVery Nice Article Pinmembergovind_ind12318-Apr-11 20:35 
QuestionDoubt abt new keyword PinmemberSrigurusankar27-Feb-11 20:33 
AnswerRe: Doubt abt new keyword PinmemberTweakBird25-May-11 1:55 
GeneralMy vote of 3 PinmemberSunnyBuzz28-Jul-10 23:30 
QuestionIs it possible to do polymorphism with out inheritnace???? Pinmemberamistry_petlad10-Jun-10 4:55 
GeneralUnable to cast object of type 'Inheritance.person' to type 'Inheritance.employee'. Pingroupanup choudhari31-May-10 0:46 
General... Pinmember69er6-Feb-10 1:02 
GeneralGREAT Pinmembershanto01327-Aug-09 18:42 
GeneralNice Artical Pinmemberrk4dotnet1-Apr-09 2:32 Pinmembersandik484-Jan-09 20:44 
AnswerRe: .net PinmvpNishant Sivakumar5-Jan-09 2:58 
GeneralIt has all about Inheritance PinmemberShiv...27-Aug-07 0:39 
Generalmade easy to undertand Pinmemberpallavipatil0121-Jun-07 21:52 
GeneralOutput seems to have an error PinmemberComputerKat19-Jan-07 9:34 
GeneralRe: Output seems to have an error Pinmemberpeter200210-Mar-07 12:49 
Generalquestion about last example Pinmemberdaddion30-Oct-06 17:52 
GeneralRe: question about last example Pinmembertbenda11-Dec-06 7:23 
Questionwhy the new modifier? Pinmemberlogistum29-Jul-06 12:22 
AnswerRe: why the new modifier? Pinmemberberen77723-Aug-06 0:29 
GeneralGood tutorial; one question PinmemberHuline31-Oct-05 8:38 
GeneralRe: Good tutorial; one question Pinmembersikemullivan21-Dec-05 10:29 
Generalexcellent Pinmemberhollyireland28-Oct-04 11:56 
GeneralRe: excellent PinstaffNishant S28-Oct-04 17:11 
GeneralIt helped! Thankx PinmemberKavya Menon18-Sep-03 3:30 
GeneralRe: It helped! Thankx PineditorNishant S18-Sep-03 4:49 
GeneralNice beginners article Nish PinmemberBrian Delahunty28-Dec-02 9:06 
GeneralRe: Nice beginners article Nish Pinmemberleppie28-Dec-02 9:50 
GeneralRe: Nice beginners article Nish PineditorNishant S28-Dec-02 20:32 
GeneralRe: Nice beginners article Nish PinmemberBrian Delahunty8-Jan-03 2:46 
GeneralRe: Nice beginners article Nish PineditorNishant S28-Dec-02 20:31 
GeneralRe: Nice beginners article Nish PinmemberBrian Delahunty8-Jan-03 2:44 
GeneralRe: Nice beginners article Nish PinsussAnonymous26-May-04 3:48 

General General    News News    Suggestion Suggestion    Question Question    Bug Bug    Answer Answer    Joke Joke    Rant Rant    Admin Admin   

Use Ctrl+Left/Right to switch messages, Ctrl+Up/Down to switch threads, Ctrl+Shift+Left/Right to switch pages.

| Advertise | Privacy | Terms of Use | Mobile
Web03 | 2.8.150224.1 | Last Updated 10 Oct 2001
Article Copyright 2001 by Nish Sivakumar
Everything else Copyright © CodeProject, 1999-2015
Layout: fixed | fluid