What are the rules for calling the superclass constructor?


Question

What are the C++ rules for calling the superclass constructor from a subclass one?

For example, I know in Java, you must do it as the first line of the subclass constructor (and if you don't, an implicit call to a no-arg super constructor is assumed - giving you a compile error if that's missing).

1
639
8/8/2017 8:35:09 AM

Accepted Answer

Base class constructors are automatically called for you if they have no argument. If you want to call a superclass constructor with an argument, you must use the subclass's constructor initialization list. Unlike Java, C++ supports multiple inheritance (for better or worse), so the base class must be referred to by name, rather than "super()".

class SuperClass
{
    public:

        SuperClass(int foo)
        {
            // do something with foo
        }
};

class SubClass : public SuperClass
{
    public:

        SubClass(int foo, int bar)
        : SuperClass(foo)    // Call the superclass constructor in the subclass' initialization list.
        {
            // do something with bar
        }
};

More info on the constructor's initialization list here and here.

866
5/8/2012 6:44:25 PM

In C++, the no-argument constructors for all superclasses and member variables are called for you, before entering your constructor. If you want to pass them arguments, there is a separate syntax for this called "constructor chaining", which looks like this:

class Sub : public Base
{
  Sub(int x, int y)
  : Base(x), member(y)
  {
  }
  Type member;
};

If anything run at this point throws, the bases/members which had previously completed construction have their destructors called and the exception is rethrown to to the caller. If you want to catch exceptions during chaining, you must use a function try block:

class Sub : public Base
{
  Sub(int x, int y)
  try : Base(x), member(y)
  {
    // function body goes here
  } catch(const ExceptionType &e) {
    throw kaboom();
  }
  Type member;
};

In this form, note that the try block is the body of the function, rather than being inside the body of the function; this allows it to catch exceptions thrown by implicit or explicit member and base class initializations, as well as during the body of the function. However, if a function catch block does not throw a different exception, the runtime will rethrow the original error; exceptions during initialization cannot be ignored.


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