Polymorphism in C++

The word polymorphism in c++ means having many forms. Typically, polymorphism occurs when there is a hierarchy of classes and they are related by inheritance.

C++ polymorphism means that a call to a member function will cause a different function to be executed depending on the type of object that invokes the function.

Consider the following example where a base class has been derived by other two classes:

#include <iostream> 
using namespace std;
 
class Shape {
   protected:
      int width, height;
   public:
      Shape( int a=0, int b=0)
      {
         width = a;
         height = b;
      }
      int area()
      {
         cout << "Parent class area :" <<endl;
         return 0;
      }
};
class Rectangle: public Shape{
   public:
      Rectangle( int a=0, int b=0):Shape(a, b) { }
      int area ()
      { 
         cout << "Rectangle class area :" <<endl;
         return (width * height); 
      }
};
class Triangle: public Shape{
   public:
      Triangle( int a=0, int b=0):Shape(a, b) { }
      int area ()
      { 
         cout << "Triangle class area :" <<endl;
         return (width * height / 2); 
      }
};
// Main function for the program
int main( )
{
   Shape *shape;
   Rectangle rec(10,7);
   Triangle  tri(10,5);

   // store the address of Rectangle
   shape = &rec;
   // call rectangle area.
   shape->area();

   // store the address of Triangle
   shape = &tri;
   // call triangle area.
   shape->area();
   
   return 0;
}

When the above code is compiled and executed, it produces the following result:

Parent class area
Parent class area

Virtual Function:

A virtual function is a function in a base class that is declared using the keyword named as virtual. Defining in a base class a virtual function, with another type in a derived class, signals to the compiler that we don’t want static linkage for this function.

What we want do is the selection of the function to be called at any given point in the program to be based on the kind of object for which it is called. This order of operation is referred to as dynamic linkage or late binding.

Pure Virtual Functions:

It is possible that you want to include a virtual function in a base class so that it may be redefined in a derived class to suit the objects of that class, but that there is no meaningful definition you could give for the function in the base class.

We can change the virtual function area() in the base class to the following code:

class Shape {
   protected:
      int width, height;
   public:
      Shape( int a=0, int b=0)
      {
         width = a;
         height = b;
      }
      // pure virtual function
      virtual int area() = 0;
};

The = 0 tells compiler that the function has no body and above virtual function will be called pure virtual function.

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