The Difference Between let, const and var in Javascript

February 23rd, 2020
3 mins read

by Dillion Megida

Category: JAVASCRIPT

#javascript

Maximum of 20 articles can be saved!

The Difference Between let, const and var in Javascript

February 23rd, 2020
3 mins read

by Dillion Megida

Category: JAVASCRIPT

#javascript

Maximum of 20 articles can be saved!

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var, let and const generally control hoisting of variables. Another feature of const is that contrary to variables which can changed, values declared here are CONSTANT - cannot change.

Hosting is a behavior in Javascript whereby variables are moved to the top of their scope. For example:

function print() {
    console.log(name);
    var name = "Javascript";
}
print();

The function returns undefined even though as at the time console.log was called, name wasn't known yet. It was supposed to return a reference error, but it didn't.

name was hoisted. But the value wasn't.

Let's look at scope a little.

Scope in Javascript

Scope refers to the environment of a variable. It refers to how accessible a variable is - what parts of the program can access the variable.

In Javascript, there are three types of scope namely:

  • Global Scope
  • Local Scope
  • Block Scope

Global scope

This the default which defines variables globally. That is, can be referenced anywhere in the program.

var name = "Javascript";
function printName() {
    console.log(name);
}
printName();
// Javascript

name is global, hence the function can access it.

Local scope

This is created with functions. Variables declared here can only be accessed within the function it is was created in. Example:

var name = "Javascript";
function printName() {
    console.log(name);
    var number = 18;
}
console.log(number);
printName();

A ReferenceError is thrown because number is locally scoped and cannot be accessed outside the function.

Block Scope

This scope is generally created with curly brances ({ }). These braces exists in functions, loops, if statements and so on.

var name = "Javascript";
if(name === "Javascript") {
    var number = 17;
}
console.log(number);
// 17

We've gotten the hang of scope,

Now to the keywords

The two main differences between var, let and const is that

  1. var hoists it's variables to the top of its local/global scope while let and const does not hoists its variables.
  2. var cannot be used in block scopes. It still hoists it to the top of the local/global scope. While, let and const can be used in block scopes.

Examine the following code:

console.log(name);
var name = "Javascript";
function printName() {
    console.log(number);
    var number = 16;
    console.log(age);
    let age = 15;
}
printName();

If you tried the above, you'll get an error, which is ReferenceError: Cannot access age before initialization. This is contrary to undefined which var would have resulted. This is because, let does not hoist variables.

This proves the first difference

Examine the next code:

console.log(name);
var name = "Javascript";
function printName() {
    console.log(number);
    var number = 16;
    console.log(name2);
    console.log(name3);
    if(number === 16) {
        var name2 = "keyword"
    }
    if(number === 15) {
        var name3 = "letconst";
    }
}
printName();

This prints undefined for name2 and name3 to the console. name2 and name3 is declared and hoisted to the top of the local scope even before the if statements are executed but the value isn't hoisted along with it.

This proves the first difference.

Examine this code again:

console.log(name);
var name = "Javascript";
function printName() {
    console.log(number);
    var number = 16;
    if(number === 16) {
        let name2 = "keyword"
    }
    console.log(name2);
}
printName();

This results in a Reference Error. name2 is not defined. This proves the second difference.

const works the same way with let in terms of scope and hoisting, but does not allow changing the values of its variables.

Useful Resources

If you have any questions or contributions regarding this article, kindly reach Dillion Megida (@iamdillion) or visit us on twitter - @thewebfor5

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