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What are Base and Derived Classes in C++ : Exploring the Fundamentals of Object-Oriented Programming

Object-oriented programming (OOP) is a powerful paradigm that allows developers to organize and structure their code efficiently. Inheritance is one of the fundamental concepts of OOP, enabling the creation of hierarchies and the sharing of code between classes. In C++, base and derived classes play a crucial role in implementing inheritance. In this article, you will learn concepts of base and derived classes, their characteristics, syntax for implementation, and the relationship between them. Let’s explore the world of base and derived classes in C++.

What is object-oriented programming (OOP)?

Object-oriented programming (OOP) is a programming paradigm that focuses on organizing code into objects, which are instances of classes. OOP promotes the concept of encapsulation, inheritance, and polymorphism, making code more modular, reusable, and maintainable. By leveraging the power of OOP, developers can model real-world entities and create complex systems with ease.

Importance of inheritance in OOP

Inheritance is a fundamental pillar of OOP that allows classes to inherit properties and behaviors from other classes. It enables code reuse, promotes modularity, and simplifies the design and maintenance of large-scale applications. Inheritance also facilitates the creation of specialized classes, extending the functionality of existing classes without modifying their original code. This concept plays a vital role in achieving code efficiency and reducing redundancy.

What are Base Classes?

A base class, also known as a parent class or superclass, is a class from which other classes can inherit properties and behaviors. It serves as the foundation for derived classes, providing a common set of attributes and methods that can be shared across multiple classes. A base class defines the common characteristics and functionalities that its derived classes inherit.

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Purpose of a Base Class

The primary purpose of a base class is to provide a blueprint or template for derived classes. It encapsulates the common behaviors and attributes that derived classes need, eliminating the need to rewrite code redundantly. Base classes establish the hierarchy within an inheritance structure, facilitating code organization and promoting code reusability.

Features of Base Classes

Base classes possess several distinguishing features:

  • Encapsulation: Base classes encapsulate data members and member functions that are shared by derived classes.
  • Inheritance: Derived classes inherit the properties and methods defined in the base class.
  • Polymorphism: Base classes enable polymorphic behavior, allowing derived classes to override base class functions.
  • Code Reusability: Base classes promote code reuse, reducing duplication and enhancing the maintainability of code.

Characteristics of Base Classes

Base classes exhibit the following characteristics:

  • They can be inherited by multiple derived classes.
  • They can define virtual functions that can be overridden by derived classes.
  • They can be used to create objects, although they are typically designed to serve as a blueprint for derived classes.
  • They can have their own data members and member functions, which can be accessed by derived classes.

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How to define a Base Class in C++?

To defining a base class in C++ programming you have to follow steps given below:

Step-1: Create a class using the ‘class’ keyword, followed by the class name.

Step-2: Define the data members and member functions within the class definition.

Step-3: Access modifiers such as ‘public’, ‘private’, and ‘protected’ can be used to control the visibility and accessibility of class members.

Step-4: Encapsulate the relevant attributes and behaviors within the base class to be inherited by derived classes.

Example of C++ where demonstrating a Simple Base Class

Consider the following code snippet that demonstrates a simple base class called ‘Shape’:

class Shape {
    int width;
    int height;

    void setDimensions(int w, int h) {
        width = w;
        height = h;

    virtual int calculateArea() {
        return 0;


In this example, the ‘Shape’ class defines two data members, ‘width’ and ‘height’, along with member functions for setting the dimensions and calculating the area. The ‘virtual’ keyword indicates that the ‘calculateArea()’ function can be overridden by derived classes.

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What is Derived Classes?

Derived classes, also known as child classes or subclasses, inherit properties and behaviors from their base classes. They extend and specialize the functionalities of the base class, adding unique characteristics and behaviors. Derived classes can override base class functions, provide additional member functions, and define new data members specific to their requirements.

Purpose of a Derived Class

The purpose of a derived class is to inherit the attributes and methods defined in the base class while extending or modifying their behavior. Derived classes allow developers to create specialized versions of existing classes, tailoring them to specific requirements without modifying the base class directly.

Syntax for creating a derived class in C++

To create a derived class in C++, the following syntax is used:

class DerivedClassName : accessSpecifier BaseClassName {
    // Class members and functions


In this syntax, ‘DerivedClassName’ represents the name of the derived class, and ‘BaseClassName’ refers to the name of the base class. The ‘accessSpecifier’ can be either ‘public’, ‘private’, or ‘protected’, determining the accessibility of the inherited members from the base class.

Example code illustrating the creation of a derived class

Let’s consider the following code example that demonstrates a derived class called ‘Rectangle’, inheriting from the ‘Shape’ base class:

class Rectangle : public Shape {
    int calculateArea() override {
        return width * height;


In this example, the ‘Rectangle’ class is derived from the ‘Shape’ base class using the ‘public’ access specifier. It overrides the ‘calculateArea()’ function, providing its own implementation to calculate the area based on the width and height of the rectangle.

Inheritance and the relationship between base and derived classes

Inheritance establishes a relationship between base and derived classes, enabling the transfer of properties and behaviors from the base class to the derived class. The derived class inherits all the accessible members of the base class, including data members and member functions. This relationship allows the derived class to access and utilize the functionalities defined in the base class, promoting code reuse and code organization.

Common mistakes to avoid when working with base and derived classes

  • Forgetting to include necessary header files when defining base and derived classes.
  • Not using the appropriate access specifier while inheriting from the base class.
  • Failing to call the base class constructor or destructor in the derived class.
  • Attempting to access private members of the base class directly from the derived class.

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Base and derived classes form the foundation of inheritance in C++, enabling code reuse, modularity, and efficient organization of code. Understanding the concepts of base and derived classes is essential for creating well-structured and maintainable object-oriented programs. By leveraging the power of inheritance, developers can optimize code development and achieve better code efficiency.


  1. Can a class be both a base class and a derived class?

    No, a class cannot be both a base class and a derived class at the same time. However, a class can act as a base class for one class and as a derived class for another, forming complex class hierarchies.

  2. Can a derived class inherit from multiple base classes?

    Yes, C++ supports multiple inheritance, allowing a derived class to inherit from multiple base classes. This feature enables the derived class to inherit properties and behaviors from multiple sources, promoting code reusability and flexibility. However, it’s essential to handle potential conflicts and ambiguity that may arise when multiple base classes define members with the same name.

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Tazahindi Staff
Tazahindi Staffhttps://tazahindi.com
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