Inheritance in C++

The question:

I looked and couldn’t find a good explanation of the difference between public, private, and protected inheritance in C++. All of the questions I’ve found deal with specific cases. What is the difference in general?

The answer:

There are three accessors that I’m aware of: public, protected and private.

Lets take the following example:

class Base {
        int publicMember;
        int protectedMember;
        int privateMember;

Everything that is aware of Base is also aware that Base contains publicMember. Only the children (and their children) are aware that Base contains protectedMember. No one but Base is aware of privateMember. By is aware of, I mean acknowledge the existence of, and thus be able to access.

The same happens with public, private and protected inheritance. Let’s consider a class Base and a class Child that inherits from Base.

  • If the inheritance is public, everything that is aware of Base and Child is also aware that Child inherits from Base.
  • If the inheritance is protected, only Child, and its children, are aware that they inherit from Base.
  • If the inheritance is private, no one other than Child is aware of the inheritance.

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