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About JavaScript’s “this” keyword.

Functions, objects, and the this keyword are all interconnected in JavaScript. When a function is called, a this variable is set to a specific object. However, the value of this depends on just how the function was called.

In this post, we’ll explore different ways we can call functions, as well as how each of these sets the value of this a bit differently.

“This” in constructor functions.

One place where you’ll commonly see the this keyword is within constructor functions. Consider the following example:

function Course(id, name) { = id; = name;
 this.describe = function () {
   console.log(`Course ${}: ${}`);
const spanish = new Course("SPA-001", "Spanish 1");

In the above Course() constructor, the describe method references and Since we invoke the Course() function with the new operator, this gets set to the newly-created object: spanish.

 id: "SPA-001",
 name: "Spanish 1",
 describe: function () {
   console.log(`Course ${}: ${}`);

As a result, since this becomes the spanish object, and we can access properties directly from that object:

console.log(; // "SPA-001"
console.log(; // "Spanish 1"

What’s more: the describe() method can effectively use this to access the id and name properties of that object. This makes the following method call possible:

console.log(spanish.describe()); // "Course SPA-001: Spanish 1"

To recap: when we invoke a constructor function with the new operator, the value of this gets set to that newly-created (i.e., instantiated) object.

“This” in methods.

Another place where you’ll commonly see this is within object methods. In this context, the value of this is actually not assigned to anything until an object calls the method where this is used. In other words, the value assigned to this is based on the object that invokes the method where this is defined.

Consider the following example:

const printer = {
 print: function () {
 printTwice: function () {

If we invoke the printer object’s methods:

// "Printing..."
// "Printing..."
// "Printing..."

We know that when we call printer.print() (or printer.printTwice()) a variable this gets set. Since this can access the object it was called on (that is, printer), printTwice can use this to directly access the printer object, which contains the print method. In other words: this.print() tells printTwice to look at printer – the object that the method was called on – to find print

As such, when invoking a method on an object, this gets set to the object itself!

“This” in functions.

So far, we’ve seen what happens to this when invoking a constructor function with the new operator, as well as what happens to this when calling a function that belongs to an object (i.e., a method). What happens when we simply invoke a regular function on its own?

Consider the following function that simply returns this:

function funFunction() {
 return this;

When we invoke funFunction(), this set to the window object, which is the global object if the host environment is the browser.

funFunction(); // (returns the global object, window)

To check the properties and methods available in the returned object, try running the above code in your browser’s developer console (e.g., Chrome DevTools).

“This” keyword, recapped.

When a function is called, a variable this gets set to a certain value. But depending on how the function was called, what this refers to can be very different:

  • If a constructor function is called with a new operator, this is set to the newly-created object
  • If a method is called on an object, this is set to that particular object itself
  • If a normal function is simply invoked, this is set to the window (or global) object

Learn more.

Along with all this, there are yet more ways to invoke functions: with apply(), and with call(). Both methods share quite a few similarities, and they each allow us to specify how we want to set this.

For a closer look at those methods, as well as an extended overview of the this keyword in JavaScript, check out these resources:

Or explore the Intermediate JavaScript Nanodegree program to master the most popular programming language in the world.