The instanceof operator tests to see if the prototype property of a constructor appears anywhere in the prototype chain of an object. The return value is a boolean value. 


object instanceof constructor


The object to test.
Function to test against


The instanceof operator tests the presence of constructor.prototype in object's prototype chain.

// defining constructors
function C() {}
function D() {}

let o = new C()

// true, because: Object.getPrototypeOf(o) === C.prototype
o instanceof C

// false, because D.prototype is nowhere in o's prototype chain
o instanceof D

o instanceof Object           // true, because:
C.prototype instanceof Object // true

C.prototype = {}
let o2 = new C()

o2 instanceof C  // true

// false, because C.prototype is nowhere in
// o's prototype chain anymore
o instanceof C

D.prototype = new C()  // add C to [[Prototype]] linkage of D
let o3 = new D()
o3 instanceof D        // true
o3 instanceof C        // true since C.prototype is now in o3's prototype chain

Note that the value of an instanceof test can change based on changes to the prototype property of constructors. It can also be changed by changing an object's prototype using Object.setPrototypeOf. It is also possible using the non-standard __proto__ property.

instanceof and multiple context (e.g. frames or windows)

Different scopes have different execution environments. This means that they have different built-ins (different global object, different constructors, etc.). This may result in unexpected results. For instance, [] instanceof window.frames[0].Array will return false, because Array.prototype !== window.frames[0].Array.prototype and arrays inherit from the former.

This may not make sense at first, but for scripts dealing with multiple frames or windows, and passing objects from one context to another via functions, this will be a valid and strong issue. For instance, you can securely check if a given object is, in fact, an Array using Array.isArray(myObj)

For example, checking if a Node is a SVGElement in a different context, you can use myNode instanceof myNode.ownerDocument.defaultView.SVGElement.


Using instanceof with String

The following example shows the behavior of instanceof with String objects.

let literalString = 'This is a literal string';
let stringObject  = new String('String created with constructor');

literalString instanceof String;  // false, string literal is not a String
stringObject  instanceof String;  // true

literalString instanceof Object;  // false, string literal is not an Object
stringObject  instanceof Object;  // true

stringObject  instanceof Date;    // false

Using instanceof with Date

The following example shows the behavior of instanceof with Date objects.

let myDate = new Date();

myDate instanceof Date;      // true
myDate instanceof Object;    // true
myDate instanceof String;    // false

Objects created using Object.create()

The following example shows the behavior of instanceof with objects created using Object.create()

function Shape() {

function Rectangle() {; // call super constructor.

Rectangle.prototype = Object.create(Shape.prototype);

Rectangle.prototype.constructor = Rectangle;

let rect = new Rectangle();

rect instanceof Object;    // true
rect instanceof Shape;     // true
rect instanceof Rectangle; // true
rect instanceof String;    // false

let literalObject     = {};
let nullObject  = Object.create(null); = "My object";

literalObject    instanceof Object;   // true, every object literal has Object.prototype as prototype
({})             instanceof Object;   // true, same case as above
nullObject       instanceof Object;   // false, prototype is end of prototype chain (null)

Demonstrating that mycar is of type Car and type Object

The following code creates an object type Car and an instance of that object type, mycar. The instanceof operator demonstrates that the mycar object is of type Car and of type Object.

function Car(make, model, year) {
  this.make = make;
  this.model = model;
  this.year = year;
let mycar = new Car('Honda', 'Accord', 1998)
let a = mycar instanceof Car     // returns true
let b = mycar instanceof Object  // returns true

Not an instanceof

To test if an object is not an instanceof a specific constructor, you can do

if (!(mycar instanceof Car)) {
  // Do something, like:
  // mycar = new Car(mycar)

This is really different from:

if (!mycar instanceof Car)

This will always be false. (!mycar will be evaluated before instanceof, so you always try to know if a boolean is an instance of Car).


ECMAScript (ECMA-262)
The definition of 'Relational Operators' in that specification.

Browser compatibility

BCD tables only load in the browser

See also