new operator

The new operator lets developers create an instance of a user-defined object type or of one of the built-in object types that has a constructor function.

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Syntax

new constructor[([arguments])]

Parameters

constructor

A class or function that specifies the type of the object instance.

arguments

A list of values that the constructor will be called with. new Foo is equivalent to new Foo(), i.e. if no argument list is specified, Foo is called without arguments.

Description

When a function is called with the new keyword, the function will be used as a constructor. new will do the following things:

  1. Creates a blank, plain JavaScript object. For convenience, let's call it newInstance.
  2. Points newInstance's [[Prototype]] to the constructor function's prototype property.

    Note: Properties/objects added to the constructor function's prototype property are therefore accessible to all instances created from the constructor function.

  3. Executes the constructor function with the given arguments, binding newInstance as the this context (i.e. all references to this in the constructor function now refer to newInstance).
  4. If the constructor function returns a non-primitive, this return value becomes the result of the whole new expression. Otherwise, if the constructor function doesn't return anything or returns a primitive, newInstance is returned instead. (Normally constructors don't return a value, but they can choose to do so to override the normal object creation process.)

Classes can only be instantiated with the new operator — attempting to call a class without new will throw a TypeError.

Creating an object with a user-defined constructor function requires two steps:

  1. Define the object type by writing a function that specifies its name and properties. For example, a constructor function to create an object Foo might look like this:
    function Foo(bar1, bar2) {
      this.bar1 = bar1;
      this.bar2 = bar2;
    }
    
  2. Create an instance of the object with new.
    const myFoo = new Foo('Bar 1', 2021);
    

Note: An object can have a property that is itself another object. See the examples below.

You can always add a property to a previously defined object instance. For example, the statement car1.color = "black" adds a property color to car1, and assigns it a value of "black".

However, this does not affect any other objects. To add the new property to all objects of the same type, you must add the property to the constructor's prototype property. This defines a property that is shared by all objects created with that function, rather than by just one instance of the object type. The following code adds a color property with value "original color" to all objects of type Car, and then overwrites that value with the string "black" only in the instance object car1. For more information, see prototype.

function Car() {}
const car1 = new Car();
const car2 = new Car();

console.log(car1.color);    // undefined

Car.prototype.color = 'original color';
console.log(car1.color);    // 'original color'

car1.color = 'black';
console.log(car1.color);    // 'black'

console.log(Object.getPrototypeOf(car1).color); // 'original color'
console.log(Object.getPrototypeOf(car2).color); // 'original color'
console.log(car1.color);   // 'black'
console.log(car2.color);   // 'original color'

Note: While the constructor function can be invoked like any regular function (i.e. without the new operator), in this case a new object is not created and the value of this is also different.

A function can know whether it is invoked with new by checking new.target. new.target is only undefined when the function is invoked without new. For example, you can have a function that behaves differently when it's called versus when it's constructed:

function Car(color) {
  if (!new.target) {
    // Called as function.
    return `${color} car`;
  }
  // Called with new.
  this.color = color;
}

const a = Car("red"); // a is "red car"
const b = new Car("red"); // b is `Car { color: "red" }`

Prior to ES6, which introduced classes, most JavaScript built-ins are both callable and constructible, although many of them exhibit different behaviors. To name a few:

  • Array(), Error(), and Function() behave the same when called as a function or a constructor.
  • Boolean(), Number(), and String() coerce their argument to the respective primitive type when called, and return wrapper objects when constructed.
  • Date() returns a string representing the current date when called, equivalent to new Date().toString().

After ES6, the language is stricter about which are constructors and which are functions. For example:

  • Symbol() and BigInt() can only be called without new. Attempting to construct them will throw a TypeError.
  • Proxy and Map can only be constructed with new. Attempting to call them will throw a TypeError.

Examples

Object type and object instance

Suppose you want to create an object type for cars. You want this type of object to be called Car, and you want it to have properties for make, model, and year. To do this, you would write the following function:

function Car(make, model, year) {
  this.make = make;
  this.model = model;
  this.year = year;
}

Now you can create an object called myCar as follows:

const myCar = new Car('Eagle', 'Talon TSi', 1993);

This statement creates myCar and assigns it the specified values for its properties. Then the value of myCar.make is the string "Eagle", myCar.year is the integer 1993, and so on.

You can create any number of car objects by calls to new. For example:

const kensCar = new Car('Nissan', '300ZX', 1992);

Object property that is itself another object

Suppose you define an object called Person as follows:

function Person(name, age, sex) {
  this.name = name;
  this.age = age;
  this.sex = sex;
}

And then instantiate two new Person objects as follows:

const rand = new Person('Rand McNally', 33, 'M');
const ken = new Person('Ken Jones', 39, 'M');

Then you can rewrite the definition of Car to include an owner property that takes a Person object, as follows:

function Car(make, model, year, owner) {
  this.make = make;
  this.model = model;
  this.year = year;
  this.owner = owner;
}

To instantiate the new objects, you then use the following:

const car1 = new Car('Eagle', 'Talon TSi', 1993, rand);
const car2 = new Car('Nissan', '300ZX', 1992, ken);

Instead of passing a literal string or integer value when creating the new objects, the above statements pass the objects rand and ken as the parameters for the owners. To find out the name of the owner of car2, you can access the following property:

car2.owner.name

Using new with classes

class Person {
  constructor(name) {
    this.name = name;
  }
  greet() {
    console.log(`Hello, my name is ${this.name}`);
  }
}

const p = new Person("Caroline");
p.greet(); // Hello, my name is Caroline

Specifications

Specification
ECMAScript Language Specification
# sec-new-operator

Browser compatibility

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See also