Replace Delegation with Inheritance

You're using delegation and are often writing many simple delegations for the entire interface.

Make the delegating class a subclass of the delegate.



This is the flip side of Replace Inheritance with Delegation. If you find yourself using all the methods of the delegate and are sick of writing all those simple delegating methods, you can switch back to inheritance pretty easily.

There are a couple of caveats to bear in mind. If you aren't using all the methods of the class to which you are delegating, you shouldn't use Replace Delegation with Inheritance, because a subclass should always follow the interface of the superclass. If the delegating methods are tiresome, you have other options. You can let the clients call the delegate themselves with Remove Middle Man. You can use Extract Superclass to separate the common interface and then inherit from the new class. You can use Extract Interface in a similar way.

Another situation to beware of is that in which the delegate is shared by more than one object and is mutable. In this case you can't replace the delegate with inheritance because you'll no longer share the data. Data sharing is a responsibility that cannot be transferred back to inheritance. When the object is immutable, data sharing is not a problem, because you can just copy and nobody can tell.


  • Make the delegating object a subclass of the delegate.
  • Compile.

    You may get some method clashes at this point; methods may have the same name but vary in return type, exceptions, or visibility. Use Rename Method to fix these.

  • Set the delegate field to be the object itself.
  • Remove the simple delegation methods.
  • Compile and test.
  • Replace all other delegations with calls to the object itself.
  • Remove the delegate field.


A simple employee delegates to a simple person:

 class Employee {
   Person _person = new Person();

   public String getName() {
       return _person.getName();
   public void setName(String arg) {
   public String toString () {
       return "Emp: " + _person.getLastName();

 class Person {
   String _name;

   public String getName() {
       return _name;
   public void setName(String arg) {
       _name = arg;
   public String getLastName() {
       return _name.substring(_name.lastIndexOf(' ')+1);

The first step is just to declare the subclass:

 class Employee extends Person

Compiling at this point alerts me to any method clashes. These occur if methods with the name have different return types or throw different exceptions. Any such problems need to be fixed with Rename Method. This simple example is free of such encumbrances.

The next step is to make the delegate field refer to the object itself. I must remove all simple delegation methods such as getName and setName. If I leave any in, I will get a stack overflow error caused by infinite recursion. In this case this means removing getName and setName from Employee.

Once I've got the class working, I can change the methods that use the delegate methods. I switch them to use calls directly:

   public String toString () {
        return "Emp: " + getLastName();

Once I've got rid of all methods that use delegate methods, I can get rid of the _person field.