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What is a class in Python

Understanding Classes in Python

When you're just starting out in the world of programming, terms like "class" might seem like they belong in a school timetable rather than in your code editor. However, understanding what a class is and how to use it in Python can be a game-changer in how you approach writing programs. Let's break down this concept into bite-sized pieces.

The Basics of a Class

In the simplest terms, a class in Python is a blueprint for creating objects. Objects are the core of object-oriented programming, a style of programming that organizes code into chunks that model real-world things or concepts. Think of a class as a cookie cutter and objects as the cookies made with it. The cookie cutter defines the shape and size of the cookies, just as a class defines the properties and behaviors of the objects.

Defining a Class

To define a class in Python, you use the keyword class, followed by the class name and a colon. Inside the class, you can define functions, known as methods, and variables, known as attributes. Here's a simple example:

class Dog:
    def __init__(self, name, breed): = name
        self.breed = breed

    def bark(self):
        return f"{} says woof!"

In this example, Dog is our class. It has an __init__ method, which is a special method that gets called when you create a new instance of the class (i.e., a new dog). This method initializes the attributes name and breed. The bark method is a behavior that all dogs have, which in this case, returns a string simulating the dog's bark.

Creating an Object

Once you have a class, you can create objects from it. Creating an object from a class is called instantiation. Here's how you can create a Dog object:

my_dog = Dog(name="Buddy", breed="Golden Retriever")
print(my_dog.bark())  # Output: Buddy says woof!

In this code, my_dog is an instance of the Dog class, with the name "Buddy" and the breed "Golden Retriever". When we call my_dog.bark(), it executes the bark method defined in the Dog class.

Attributes and Methods

Attributes are like characteristics of an object, while methods are like actions an object can perform. In our Dog class example, name and breed are attributes, and bark is a method. Attributes can be accessed using the dot notation:

print(  # Output: Buddy

Methods are also accessed using the dot notation, but you need to include parentheses to call them:

print(my_dog.bark())  # Output: Buddy says woof!

The self Keyword

You might have noticed the self keyword in our class definition. self represents the instance of the class and is used to access attributes and methods from within the class code. It's a way for the methods to say "use the attributes and other methods of this particular object."


Inheritance is a way to create a new class using details of an existing class without modifying it. The new class is a derived (or child) class, and the existing class is a base (or parent) class. This is like saying that a poodle is a specific kind of dog. Here's how you could create a Poodle class that inherits from Dog:

class Poodle(Dog):
    def prance(self):
        return f"{} is prancing around!"

my_poodle = Poodle(name="Coco", breed="Poodle")
print(my_poodle.prance())  # Output: Coco is prancing around!

The Poodle class has all the attributes and methods of the Dog class, plus any additional methods we define, like prance.


Encapsulation is the bundling of data with the methods that operate on that data. It restricts direct access to some of an object's components, which is a good thing because it means the inner workings of an object can be hidden from the outside. In Python, encapsulation is not enforced like it is in some other languages, but you can indicate that a variable should not be accessed directly by prefixing it with an underscore:

class Cat:
    def __init__(self, name):
        self._name = name  # The underscore suggests this attribute is private

    def meow(self):
        return f"{self._name} says meow!"

my_cat = Cat(name="Whiskers")
print(my_cat.meow())  # Output: Whiskers says meow!


Polymorphism allows us to define methods in the child class with the same name as defined in their parent class. In Python, polymorphism lets us define methods in the child class that have the same name as the methods in the parent class. This is like saying both dogs and cats can make a sound, but the sound they make is different. Here's a polymorphic method example:

class Cat(Dog):
    def bark(self):
        return f"{} says meow!"

my_cat = Cat(name="Kitty", breed="Siamese")
print(my_cat.bark())  # Output: Kitty says meow!

Even though my_cat is an instance of Cat, which inherits from Dog, it has its own version of the bark method that outputs a different sound.

Conclusion: The Power of Classes

Learning about classes in Python can feel like you've just been handed the keys to a more organized, efficient, and powerful way of programming. Classes allow you to create complex programs that are easier to manage and understand. They let you model real-world entities in a way that's intuitive and reusable, leading to code that's more maintainable and scalable.

As you continue your journey in programming, you'll find that classes are not just a feature of Python, but a fundamental part of many modern programming languages. They are the building blocks that will help you think like a programmer and develop solutions that are elegant and robust. So, embrace the concept of classes and enjoy the creative process of bringing your ideas to life through code. Remember, every expert was once a beginner, and with each line of code, you're one step closer to mastering the art of programming.