Liskov Substitution Principle

In this article, we will see the Liskov Substitution Principle (LSP), which is the “L” in the SOLID principles.

“Subtype Requirement: Let φ(x) be a property provable about objects x of type T. Then φ(y) should be true for objects y of type S where S is a subtype of T.” — Barbara Liskov

Well, this is the most difficult definition of five SOLID principles.

Robert C. Martin has modified it to a more developer-friendly version:

“Derived classes must be substitutable for their base classes.” — Robert C. Martin

We will explain this principle by presenting some code:

Bad Example

Consider we have a Bird interface with a fly method:

public interface Bird {
  void fly();

The duck can fly because it is a bird:

public class Duck implements Bird {

But what about Ostrich or Penguin :

public class Ostrich implements Bird {
    throw new NotSupportedException("Ostrich can't fly");

This is a quite typical violation of LSP: Ostrich is a bird, but it can’t fly. Ostrich class is a subtype of class Bird, but it can’t use the fly method so we threw NotSupportedException. It means that we are breaking LSP principle.

“LSP is often violated by attempts to remove features.” — Mark Seemann

If we have the letThemFly method to let birds fly away:

public void letThemFly(List<Bird> birds) {

One (horrible) way to hide the exceptions and address this would be to change the letThemFly method:

public void letThemFly(List<Bird> birds) {
  for(Bird bird: birds)
      if (!(bird instanceof Ostrich))

Practically what LSP indicates is that if we use superclass, it is possible to replace it with its subclass, then letThemFly will still run successfully.

Good Example

The fix here is to change the interface based on what each client needs (Interface Segregation Principle, ISP).

The Bird interface will be the base class/ mother of all “birds”:

public interface Bird {

Flying birds extend the class Bird :

public interface FlyingBirds extends Bird {
    public void fly();

Now we can create Ostrich or Penguin without violating the principle:

public class Duck extends FlyingBirds {}
public class Ostrich extends Bird {} 

And the letThemFly method:

public void letThemFly(List<Bird> birds) {
  for(Bird bird: birds);

OOP is not only about simple mapping real world to objects.

OOP is about creating abstractions, not concepts!


There is a checklist to determine whether or not you are violating LSP:


In this tutorial, we’ve learned what is LSP and I hope you understood what LSP is and made you aware of its traits. The LSP is also, at times, termed as “Design by Contract”.