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Objects and Object Constructors

JavaScript Course


In our JavaScript fundamentals course, you should have learned the basics of using objects to store and retrieve data. Let’s start with a little refresher.

There are multiple ways to define objects but in most cases, it is best to use the object literal syntax as follows:

const myObject = {
  property: 'Value!',
  otherProperty: 77,
  "obnoxious property": function() {
    // do stuff!

There are also 2 ways to get information out of an object: dot notation and bracket notation.

// dot notation
myObject.property; // 'Value!'

// bracket notation
myObject["obnoxious property"]; // [Function]

Which method you use will depend on context. Dot notation is cleaner and is usually preferred, but there are plenty of circumstances when it is not possible to use it. For example, myObject."obnoxious property" won’t work because that property is a string with a space in it. Likewise, you cannot use variables in dot notation:

const variable = 'property';

myObject.variable; // this gives us 'undefined' because it's looking for a property named 'variable' in our object

myObject[variable]; // this is equivalent to myObject['property'] and returns 'Value!'

If you are feeling rusty on using objects, now might be a good time to go back and review the content in our object basics lesson from our JavaScript Basics course.

Lesson overview

This section contains a general overview of topics that you will learn in this lesson.

  • How to write an object constructor and instantiate the object.
  • Describe what a prototype is and how it can be used.
  • Explain prototypal inheritance.
  • Understand the basic do’s and don’t’s of prototypal inheritance.
  • Explain what the this keyword is.

Objects as a design pattern

One of the simplest ways you can begin to organize your code is by grouping things into objects. Take these examples from a ‘tic tac toe’ game:

// example one
const playerOneName = "tim";
const playerTwoName = "jenn";
const playerOneMarker = "X";
const playerTwoMarker = "O";

// example two
const playerOne = {
  name: "tim",
  marker: "X"

const playerTwo = {
  name: "jenn",
  marker: "O"

At first glance, the first doesn’t seem so bad… and it actually takes fewer lines to write than the example using objects, but the benefits of the second approach are huge! Let me demonstrate:

function printName(player) {

This is something that you just could NOT do with the example one setup. Instead, every time you wanted to print a specific player’s name, you would have to remember the correct variable name and then manually console.log it:


Again, this isn’t that bad… but what if you don’t know which player’s name you want to print?

function gameOver(winningPlayer){
  console.log(winningPlayer.name + " is the winner!");

Or, what if we aren’t making a 2 player game, but something more complicated such as an online shopping site with a large inventory? In that case, using objects to keep track of an item’s name, price, description and other things is the only way to go. Unfortunately, in that type of situation, manually typing out the contents of our objects is not feasible either. We need a cleaner way to create our objects, which brings us to…

Object constructors

When you have a specific type of object that you need to duplicate like our player or inventory items, a better way to create them is using an object constructor, which is a function that looks like this:

function Player(name, marker) {
  this.name = name;
  this.marker = marker;

and which you use by calling the function with the keyword new.

const player = new Player('steve', 'X');
console.log(player.name); // 'steve'

Just like with objects created using the Object Literal method, you can add functions to the object:

function Player(name, marker) {
  this.name = name;
  this.marker = marker;
  this.sayName = function() {

const player1 = new Player('steve', 'X');
const player2 = new Player('also steve', 'O');
player1.sayName(); // logs 'steve'
player2.sayName(); // logs 'also steve'


Write a constructor for making “Book” objects. We will revisit this in the project at the end of this lesson. Your book objects should have the book’s title, author, the number of pages, and whether or not you have read the book.

Put a function into the constructor that can report the book info like so:

theHobbit.info(); // "The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien, 295 pages, not read yet"

Note: It is almost always best to return things rather than putting console.log() directly into the function. In this case, return the info string and log it after the function has been called:


The prototype

Before we go much further, there’s something important you need to understand about JavaScript objects. All objects in JavaScript have a prototype. The prototype is another object that the original object inherits from, which is to say, the original object has access to all of its prototype’s methods and properties.

Let’s break it down.

1. All objects in JavaScript have a prototype

Pretty straightforward sentence here! Every object in JavaScript has a prototype. So for example, the player1 and player2 objects from before, (created with the Player(name, marker) object constructor) also have a prototype. Now, what does having a prototype mean? What even is a prototype of an object?

2. The prototype is another object

This sentence also seems pretty straightforward! The prototype is just another object - again, like the player1 and the player2 objects. The prototype object can have properties and functions, just as these Player objects have properties like .name, .marker, and functions like .sayName() attached to them.

3. …that the original object inherits from, and has access to all of its prototype’s methods and properties

Here, the “original object” refers to an object like player1 or player2. These objects are said to “inherit”, or in other words, these objects have access to the prototype’s properties or functions, if they have been defined. For example, if there was a .sayHello() function defined on the prototype, player1 can access the function just as if it was its own function - player1.sayHello(). But it’s not just player1 who can call the .sayHello() function, even player2 can call it, since it’s defined on the prototype! Read on to know the details of how it works and how you could do this yourself!

Accessing an object’s prototype

Conceptually, you now might feel like you know, or at least have an idea of what a prototype of an object is. But how do you know or actually see what the prototype of an object is? Let’s find out. You can try running the following code in the developer console of your browser. (Make sure you’ve created the player1 and player2 objects from before!)

Object.getPrototypeOf(player1) === Player.prototype; // returns true
Object.getPrototypeOf(player2) === Player.prototype; // returns true

Now, to understand this code, let’s use the three points from earlier:

  1. All objects in JavaScript have a prototype:
    • You can check the object’s prototype by using the Object.getPrototypeOf() function on the object, like Object.getPrototypeOf(player1).
    • The return value (result) of this function refers to the .prototype property of the Object Constructor (i.e., Player(name, marker)) - Object.getPrototypeOf(player1) === Player.prototype.
  2. The prototype is another object…
    • The value of the Object Constructor’s .prototype property (i.e., Player.prototype) contains the prototype object.
    • The reference to this value of Player.prototype is stored in every Player object, every time a Player object is created.
    • Hence, you get a true value returned when you check the Objects prototype - Object.getPrototypeOf(player1) === Player.prototype.
  3. …that the original object inherits from, and has access to all of its prototype’s methods and properties:
    • As said in the earlier point, every Player object has a value which refers to Player.prototype. So: Object.getPrototypeOf(player1) === Object.getPrototypeOf(player2) (returns true).
    • So, any properties or methods defined on Player.prototype will be available to the created Player objects!

The last sub-item needs a little more explanation. What does defining ‘on the prototype’ mean? Consider the following code:

Player.prototype.sayHello = function() {
   console.log("Hello, I'm a player!");

player1.sayHello(); // logs "Hello, I'm a player!"
player2.sayHello(); // logs "Hello, I'm a player!"

Here, we defined the .sayHello function ‘on’ the Player.prototype object. It then became available for the player1 and the player2 objects to use! Similarly, you can attach other properties or functions you want to use on all Player objects by defining them on the objects’ prototype (Player.prototype).

Object.getPrototypeOf() vs. .__proto__ vs. [[Prototype]]

Unlike what we have done so far using Object.getPrototypeOf() to access an object’s prototype, the same thing can also be done using the .__proto__ property of the object. However, this is a non-standard way of doing so, and deprecated. Hence, it is not recommended to access an object’s prototype by using this property. However, the same code can thus be rewritten to become:

// Don't do this!
player1.__proto__ === Player.prototype; // returns true
player2.__proto__ === Player.prototype; // returns true

In some places, like legacy code, you might also come across [[Prototype]], which is just another way of talking about the .__proto__ property of an object, like player1.[[Prototype]].

This explanation about the prototype might have been a lot, so remember to take a breather before moving on!

Prototypal inheritance

Now, you may also have a question - what use is an object’s prototype? What is the purpose of defining properties and functions on the prototype?

We can narrow it down to two reasons:

  1. We can define properties and functions common among all objects on the prototype to save memory. Defining every property and function takes up a lot of memory, especially if you have a lot of common properties and functions, and a lot of created objects! Defining them on a centralized, shared object which the objects have access to, thus saves memory.
  2. The second reason is the name of this section, Prototypal Inheritance, which we’ve referred to in passing earlier, in the introduction to the Prototype. In recap, we can say that the player1 and player2 objects inherit from the Player.prototype object, which allows them to access functions like .sayHello.

Let’s now try to do the following:

// Player.prototype.__proto__
Object.getPrototypeOf(Player.prototype) === Object.prototype; // true

// Output may slightly differ based on the browser
player1.valueOf(); // Output: Object { name: "steve", marker: "X", sayName: sayName() }

What’s this .valueOf function, and where did it come from if we did not define it? It comes as a result of Object.getPrototypeOf(Player.prototype) having the value of Object.prototype! This means that Player.prototype is inheriting from Object.prototype. This .valueOf function is defined on Object.prototype just like .sayHello is defined on Player.prototype.

How do we know that this .valueOf function is defined on Object.prototype? We make use of another function called .hasOwnProperty:

player1.hasOwnProperty('valueOf'); // false
Object.prototype.hasOwnProperty('valueOf'); // true

Now where did this .hasOwnProperty function come from? A quick check helps:

Object.prototype.hasOwnProperty('hasOwnProperty'); // true

Essentially, this is how JavaScript makes use of prototype - by having the objects contain a value - to point to prototypes and inheriting from those prototypes, and thus forming a chain. This kind of inheritance using prototypes is hence named as Prototypal inheritance. JavaScript figures out which properties exist (or do not exist) on the object and starts traversing the chain to find the property or function, like so:

  1. Is the .valueOf function part of the player1 object? No, it is not. (Remember, only the name, marker and sayName properties are part of the Player objects.)
  2. Is the function part of the player1’s prototype (the Object.getPrototypeOf(player1) value, i.e., Player.prototype)? No, only the .sayHello function is a part of it.
  3. Well, then, is it part of Object.getPrototypeOf(Player.prototype) (=== Object.prototype)? Yes, .valueOf is defined on Object.prototype!

However, this chain does not go on forever, and if you have already tried logging the value of Object.getPrototypeOf(Object.prototype), you would find that it is null, which indicates the end of the chain. And it is at the end of this chain that if the specific property or function is not found, undefined is returned.


  1. Every prototype object inherits from Object.prototype by default.
  2. An object’s Object.getPrototypeOf() value can only be one unique prototype object.

Now, how do you utilize Prototypal Inheritance? What do you need to do to use it? Just as we use Object.getPrototypeOf() to ‘get’ or view the prototype of an object, we can use Object.setPrototypeOf() to ‘set’ or mutate it. Let’s see how it works by adding a Person Object Constructor to the Player example, and making Player inherit from Person!

function Person(name) {
  this.name = name;

Person.prototype.sayName = function() {
  console.log(`Hello, I'm ${this.name}!`);

function Player(name, marker) {
  this.name = name;
  this.marker = marker;

Player.prototype.getMarker = function() {
  console.log(`My marker is '${this.marker}'`);

Object.getPrototypeOf(Player.prototype); // returns Object.prototype

// Now make `Player` objects inherit from `Person`
Object.setPrototypeOf(Player.prototype, Person.prototype);
Object.getPrototypeOf(Player.prototype); // returns Person.prototype

const player1 = new Player('steve', 'X');
const player2 = new Player('also steve', 'O');

player1.sayName(); // Hello, I'm steve!
player2.sayName(); // Hello, I'm also steve!

player1.getMarker(); // My marker is 'X'
player2.getMarker(); // My marker is 'O'

From the code, we can see that we’ve defined a Person from whom a Player inherits properties and functions, and that the created Player objects are able to access both the .sayName and the .getMarker functions, in spite of them being defined on two separate prototype objects! This is enabled by the use of the Object.setPrototypeOf() function. It takes two arguments - the first is the one which inherits and the second argument is the one which you want the first argument to inherit from. This ensures that the created Player objects are able to access the .sayName and .getMarker functions through their prototype chain.


Though it seems to be an easy way to set up Prototypal Inheritance using Object.setPrototypeOf(), the prototype chain has to be set up using this function before creating any objects. Using setPrototypeOf() after objects have already been created can result in performance issues.

A warning… this doesn’t work:

Player.prototype = Person.prototype;

because it will set Player.prototype to directly refer to Person.prototype (i.e. not a copy), which could cause problems if you want to edit something in the future. Consider one more example:

function Person(name) {
  this.name = name;

Person.prototype.sayName = function() {
  console.log(`Hello, I'm ${this.name}!`);

function Player(name, marker) {
  this.name = name;
  this.marker = marker;

// Don't do this!
// Use Object.setPrototypeOf(Player.prototype, Person.prototype)
Player.prototype = Person.prototype;

function Enemy(name) {
  this.name = name;
  this.marker = '^';

// Not again!
// Use Object.setPrototypeOf(Enemy.prototype, Person.prototype)
Enemy.prototype = Person.prototype;

Enemy.prototype.sayName = function() {

const carl = new Player('carl', 'X');
carl.sayName(); // Uh oh! this logs "HAHAHAHAHAHA" because we edited the sayName function!

If we had used Object.setPrototypeOf() in this example, then we could safely edit the Enemy.prototype.sayName function without changing the function for Player as well.


  1. Read up on the concept of the prototype from the articles below.
    1. Read the article Understanding Prototypes and Inheritance in JavaScript from Digital Ocean. This is a good review of prototype inheritance and constructor functions, featuring some examples.
    2. To go a bit deeper into both the chain and inheritance, spend some time with JavaScript.Info’s article on Prototypal Inheritance. As usual, doing the exercises at the end will help cement this knowledge in your mind. Don’t skip them! Important note: This article makes heavy use of __proto__ which is not generally recommended. The concepts here are what we’re looking for at the moment. We will soon learn another method or two for setting the prototype.
  2. You might have noticed us using the this keyword in object constructors and prototype methods in the examples above.

    1. JavaScript Tutorial’s article on the this keyword covers how this changes in various situations. Pay special attention to the pitfalls mentioned in each section.

Knowledge check

The following questions are an opportunity to reflect on key topics in this lesson. If you can’t answer a question, click on it to review the material, but keep in mind you are not expected to memorize or master this knowledge.

Additional resources

This section contains helpful links to related content. It isn’t required, so consider it supplemental.

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