Trail: Learning the Java Language
Lesson: Classes and Objects
Section: More on Classes
Using the this Keyword
Home Page > Learning the Java Language > Classes and Objects

Using the this Keyword

Within an instance method or a constructor, this is a reference to the current object — the object whose method or constructor is being called. You can refer to any member of the current object from within an instance method or a constructor by using this.

Using this with a Field

The most common reason for using the this keyword is because a field is shadowed by a method or constructor parameter.

For example, the Point class was written like this

public class Point {
    public int x = 0;
    public int y = 0;
        
    //constructor
    public Point(int a, int b) {
        x = a;
        y = b;
    }
}

but it could have been written like this:

public class Point {
    public int x = 0;
    public int y = 0;
        
    //constructor
    public Point(int x, int y) {
        this.x = x;
        this.y = y;
    }
}

Each argument to the constructor shadows one of the object's fields — inside the constructor x is a local copy of the constructor's first argument. To refer to the Point field x, the constructor must use this.x.

Using this with a Constructor

From within a constructor, you can also use the this keyword to call another constructor in the same class. Doing so is called an explicit constructor invocation. Here's another Rectangle class, with a different implementation from the one in the Objects section.

public class Rectangle {
    private int x, y;
    private int width, height;
        
    public Rectangle() {
        this(0, 0, 1, 1);
    }
    public Rectangle(int width, int height) {
        this(0, 0, width, height);
    }
    public Rectangle(int x, int y, int width, int height) {
        this.x = x;
        this.y = y;
        this.width = width;
        this.height = height;
    }
    ...
}

This class contains a set of constructors. Each constructor initializes some or all of the rectangle's member variables. The constructors provide a default value for any member variable whose initial value is not provided by an argument. For example, the no-argument constructor creates a 1x1 Rectangle at coordinates 0,0. The two-argument constructor calls the four-argument constructor, passing in the width and height but always using the 0,0 coordinates. As before, the compiler determines which constructor to call, based on the number and the type of arguments.

If present, the invocation of another constructor must be the first line in the constructor.


Problems with the examples? Try Compiling and Running the Examples: FAQs.
Complaints? Compliments? Suggestions? Give us your feedback.

Previous page: Returning a Value from a Method
Next page: Controlling Access to Members of a Class