Solidity override vs. virtual functions

Kseniya Lifanova
Upstate Interactive
2 min readJul 15, 2020


In our most recent smart contract project, we used Solidity 0.6 where I learned about override vs virtual. As always, you can read the docs, but I wanted to write this post for those of us who prefer to read quick tutorials on Medium.

Solidity is an object-oriented programming language that supports multiple inheritances. You can inherit from a base contract and then override a function in that base contract. Before Solidity 0.6, there was no way of knowing what functions should be overridden. Now, you can explicitly label a function as virtual or override.

Function Overriding

A function that allows an inheriting contract to override its behavior will be marked at virtual. The function that overrides that base function should be marked as override. Let’s take a look at an example from our favorite library, OpenZeppelin.

If you look at the ERC20.sol contract in the latest version of the @openzeppelin/contracts library you will see that the transfer function contains both the virtual and override keywords.

function transfer(address recipient, uint256 amount) public virtual override returns (bool) {      _transfer(_msgSender(), recipient, amount);
return true;

This means if you inherit the ERC20.sol contract into your project, you can write your own transfer function and mark it as override since it’s overriding the base transfer function. If you forget to add the override the compiler will yell at you:

TypeError: Overriding function is missing "override" specifier.

The reason the OpenZeppelin transfer function includes theoverride keyword is because it’s inheriting the IERC20 interface which also has a transfer function. All functions in interface contracts are automatically considered virtual.

If your contract is inheriting the same function from multiple base contracts (that are unrelated), you must explicitly state which contracts: override(Base1, Base2)

pragma solidity >=0.5.0 <0.7.0;

contract Base1
function foo() virtual public {}

contract Base2
function foo() virtual public {}

contract Inherited is Base1, Base2
// Derives from multiple bases defining foo(), so we must explicitly
// override it
function foo() public override(Base1, Base2) {}


That’s it, folks! This update makes it clear what functions are meant to be overridden vs what functions should be left as is. This is useful when working with libraries such as OpenZeppelin. This is also useful if you are building a contract that is meant to be used by other developers. You can be explicit in your intention for a function. If you do not want a function to be overridden, leave off the virtual marker.

Upstate Interactive is a software consultancy that builds custom web and mobile applications and decentralized applications. If you need help with your smart contract application, please email us at 💜

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