Handling inheritance

Sometimes you want to override a class, add a field, and override equals to look at the new field. If you don’t forget to call super.equals() it should be fine, right? Well, it depends.

If you use getClass, and you’re not concerned with the Liskov substitution principle, you’re fine and you can probably stop reading.

However, if you use instanceof, you have to take care that you don’t break the symmetry requirement of equals. The classic example of that, is that you have a Point class with x and y coordinates, and you create a ColorPoint subclass that adds colour. If you just call super.equals(), you will end up in a situation where symmetry is broken:

Point p = new Point(1, 1);
ColorPoint cp = new ColorPoint(1, 1, RED);

System.out.println(p.equals(cp)) // prints true
System.out.println(cp.equals(p)) // prints false

If you want to know how to solve this, I recommend that you read Odersky, Spoon & Venners’s excellent article How to write an equality method in Java. In the “Pitfall 4” section, they describe how you can add a canEqual method to solve this issue, while maintaining the Liskov Substitution Principle.

Once you have done this, you need to tell EqualsVerifier about it. You have to test both the superclass (Point) and the subclasses (ColorPoint). Let’s start with Point:


By calling withRedefinedSubclass, you tell EqualsVerifier that you’ve designed your class to be overridden, and that you intend for the subclasses to add state. In other words, you tell EqualsVerifier that Point can’t be final, and neither can its equals method. For EqualsVerifier to test this, it needs access to a subclass where this is the case. Since it can’t invent one by itself, you have to give it one. In this case, we already have one: ColorPoint. Note that this doesn’t mean that ColorPoints equals method is also tested. You still need to do that separately:


Again, you need to tell EqualsVerifier that the class is part of an inheritance hierarchy. Because ColorPoint is the subclass, EqualsVerifier needs access to the superclass. Since there can be only one superclass, EqualsVerifier can find it by itself, and you don’t have to supply it like you did for Point.

Since ColorPoint is at the bottom of the inheritance hierarchy, EqualsVerifier will ask you to make it final, or to make its equals and hashCode methods final, just like it does for regular classes.

If, instead, you want ColorPoint to be subclassed further, you have to give EqualsVerifier another subclass, like so:


Then of course, you also need to test EnhancedColorPoint.

All of this is quite complicated, and often not necessary. This is why EqualsVerifier suggests by default that you make things final instead.