Abstract Classes

Video Materials

Note: this video contains errors in the UML diagram, these errors have been fixed below.

Another major feature of class inheritance is the ability to define a method in a parent class, but not provide any code that implements that function. In effect, we are saying that all objects of that type must include that method, but it is up to the child classes to provide the code. These methods are called abstract methods, and the classes that contain them are abstract classes. Let’s look at how they work!

Vehicle UML Diagram Vehicle UML Diagram


In the UML diagram above, we see that the describe() method in the Vehicle class is printed in italics. That means that the method should be abstract, without any code provided. To do this in Python, we simply inherit from a special class called ABC, short for “Abstract Base Class,” and then use the @abstractmethod decorator:

from abc import ABC, abstractmethod

class Vehicle(ABC):
  def __init__(self, name):
    self.__name = name
    self._speed = 1.0
  def name(self):
    return self.__name
  def move(self, distance):
    return distance / self._speed;
  def describe(self):

Notice that we must first import both the ABC class and the @abstractmethod decorator from a library helpfully called ABC. Then, we can use ABC as the parent class of our class, and update each method using the @abstractmethod decorator before the method, similar to how we’ve already used @staticmethod in an earlier module.

In addition, since we have declared the method describe() to be abstract, we can either add some code to that method that can be called using super().describe() from a child class, or we can simply choose to use the pass keyword to avoid including any code in the method.

Now, any class that inherits from the Vehicle class must provide an implementation for the describe() method. If it does not, that class must also be declared to be abstract. So, for example, in the UML diagram above, we see that the MotorVehicle class does not include an implementation for describe(), so we’ll also have to make it abstract.

Of course, that means that we’ll have to inherit from both Vehicle and ABC, which we’ll learn about in the next page.

Abstract Classes in Python

A class with one or more @abstractmethod declarations cannot be instantiated. In our example, we cannot directly create a Vehicle.

if __name__ == "main":
    v1 = Vehicle()
~$ python3 Vehicle
TypeError: Can't instantiate abstract class a with abstract method describe

This holds true for inherited methods

class a(ABC):
  def foome(self):

class b(a):
  def barme(self): 

if __name__ == "__main__":
  b1 = b()

running this code results in TypeError: Can't instantiate abstract class a with abstract method foome.