Polymorphism in Java

Polymorphism is the ability of an object to take on many forms. The most common use of polymorphism in OOP occurs when a parent class reference is used to refer to a child class object.

We can create functions or reference variables that behave differently in a different programmatic context. Polymorphism is one of the primary building blocks of object-oriented programming along with inheritance, abstraction, and encapsulation.

There are two kinds of polymorphism in Java :

  • Compile Time polymorphism / Static polymorphism
  • Run Time Polymorphism / Dynamic Polymorphism

Method Overloading :

Method Overloading is a feature that allows a class to have more than one method having the same name, with a different type of parameters or with a different number of parameters or both.

Things to remember on method Overloading

  • To call an overloaded method in Java, it is must to use the type and/or a number of arguments to determine which version of the overloaded method to call.
  • Overloaded methods may have different return types; the return type alone is insufficient to distinguish two versions of a method.
  • When Java encounters a call to an overloaded method, it simply executes the version of the method whose parameters match the arguments used in the call.
  • It allows the user to achieve compile-time polymorphism.
  • An overloaded method can throw different exceptions.
  • It can have different access modifiers.
class OverloadExample {
 void demo(int a) {
  System.out.println("a: " + a);
 void demo(int a, int b) {
  System.out.println("a and b: " + a + "," + b);
 double demo(double a) {
  System.out.println("double a: " + a);
  return a * a;
class OverloadingMainClass {
 public static void main(String args[]) {
  // create object for OverloadExample
  OverloadExample Obj = new OverloadExample();
  Obj.demo(10, 20);
  double result = Obj.demo(5.5);
  System.out.println("Output : " + result);

Rules for Method Overloading

  • Overloading can take place in the same class only; it would be considered as a different method if the overloading is happening in its sub-class.
  • A Constructor in Java can be overloaded the same as Method
  • Overloaded methods must have a different argument list. The parameters may differ in their type or number, or both.
  • They may have the same or different return types
  • It is also known as compile-time polymorphism

Type Casting in Method Overloading

Changing the type of a value from one primitive type to another primitive type is called as Types casting. Mostly typecasting occurs with the types whose parent is Number class.

When a data type of smaller size is promoted to the data type of bigger size than this is called Widening.

If the Bigger size is converted to a lower size, then it is called as Narrowing. There is no auto-narrowing, which means the compiler cannot narrow values unless the user specifies so.

If we do not specify the type conversion explicitly, then the compiler itself will perform the widening operation, and this is called Auto-Widening.

For example, the byte data type can be promoted to short; a short data type can be promoted to int, long, double, etc. Casting can occur towards bigger size, or to lower size as well

Example for widening and Auto-widening, and Narrowing

int i = 10;
// widening
float f = (float) i;
// auto widening
float fAuto = i;
// narrarowing
double doub = 10.12;
int inarrow = (int) doub;

Not only in normal scenarios, typecasting occurs but in the case of method overloading also the typecasting occurs, but mostly Auto-widening and also called type promotion.

Typecasting will not occur in method overloading if there is a method with an exact matching signature.

More than one method with the same name and argument list cannot be given in a class even though their return type is different; Method return type doesn’t matter in case of overloading.

package cherchertech;
public class TypeCastingExample {
 // method with byte inputs
 public void add(byte b1, byte b2) {
  System.out.println("BYTE addition result is : " + (b1 + b2));
 // method with int inputs
 public void add(float f1, float f2) {
  System.out.println("FLOAT addition result is : " + (f1 + f2));

 public static void main(String[] args) {
  // we will call the add method with int values
  //there is no method which accepts int values
  TypeCastingExample te = new TypeCastingExample();
  int a = 10, b = 10;
  te.add(a, b);
Can we overload the java main() method?

You can have n - number of main methods in a class by method overloading. But JVM calls main(String[] args) method which receives string array as an argument only.

package newtest;
public class MainMethodOverloading {
 public static void main(String[] args) {
  System.out.println("String args main");
 public static void main(int i) {
  System.out.println("int main");
 public static void main(int i1, int i2) {
  System.out.println("two int main");
 public static void main(boolean b) {
  System.out.println("boolean main");

The output of main method overloading :

Method Overriding

The subclass has the same method as of Superclass. In such cases, Subclass overrides the parent class method without even touching the source code of the Superclass. This feature is known as method overriding.

The Subclass will provide the implementation as per its wish; the Parent class will not have any control over how to implement the method.

Method Overriding is also known as Runtime polymorphism

public class BaseClass {
 public void methodToOverride() //Super class method
  System.out.println("I'm the method of BaseClass");
public class DerivedClass extends BaseClass {
 public void methodToOverride() //Sub Class method
  System.out.println("I'm the method of DerivedClass");

public class TestMethod {
 public static void main(String args[]) {
  // BaseClass reference and object
  BaseClass obj1 = new BaseClass();
  // BaseClass reference but DerivedClass object
  BaseClass obj2 = new DerivedClass();
  // Calls the method from BaseClass class
  //Calls the method from DerivedClass class
Rules for Method Overriding :
  • Applies only to inherited methods
  • Object type (NOT reference variable type) determines which overridden method will be used at runtime
  • The overriding method can have a different return type.
  • The overriding method must not have a more restrictive access modifier
  • Abstract methods must be overridden
  • Static and final methods cannot be overridden
  • Constructors cannot be overridden

Dynamic method dispatch in overriding

Dynamic method dispatch is a mechanism by which a call to an overridden method is resolved at runtime.

When an overridden method is called by a reference, Java determines which version of that method to execute based on the type of object it refers to.

In simple words, you have a grandfather and brother and sister. All of your grandchildren have inherited your grandfather's behaviors, along with your behaviors.

Now can I create a method which accepts your Grandfather behaviors, the same method can accept you ( any of your sibling) because you are his grandchildren.

If I pass your grandfather as a parameter, then the method behaves based on your grandfather's characters, but if I pass you as a parameter, then you will exhibit your + your grandfather's characteristics.

So this method is not locked with your grandfather or with your sibling, but it behaves based on the parameter you pass. So the coupling between the method and the caller happens only during the runtime, this is called dynamic dispatching.

If you have heard of Multiple personality disorder in the real world.

In the below example the compiler cannot decide the coupling as the parameter is resolved at run time, so dynamic dispatching or runtime coupling occurs.

Sorry for the below example, just yesterday I watched the 'Avengers: Infinity War 1'.

package newtest;
class SuperHero {
 public void protection(GrandFather_Avenger hero) {
class GrandFather_Avenger {
 public void tool() {
  System.out.println("All Tools of Avengers");
class Child_Hulk extends GrandFather_Avenger {
 public void tool() {
  System.out.println("Size is tool for Hulk");
class Child_Strange extends GrandFather_Avenger {
 public void tool() {
  System.out.println("Time is tools for Dr.Strange");
class Child_TomCruise extends GrandFather_Avenger {
 public void tool() {
  System.out.println("Trust me !, I'm also super Hero, Didn't you watch 'MI rogue nation'");
public class TestDynamicDispatching {
 public static void main(String[] args) {
  SuperHero sh = new SuperHero();
  // Hulk characteristics
  sh.protection(new Child_Hulk());
  // Dr.Strange characteristics
  sh.protection(new Child_Strange());
  // Tom Cruise characteristics
  sh.protection(new Child_TomCruise());
  // Avenger characteristics
  sh.protection(new GrandFather_Avenger());
About Author :

I am Pavankumar, Having 8.5 years of experience currently working in Video/Live Analytics project.

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