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A function's this keyword behaves a little differently in JavaScript compared to other languages. It also has some differences between strict mode and non-strict mode.

In most cases, the value of this is determined by how a function is called. It can't be set by assignment during execution, and it may be different each time the function is called. ES5 introduced the bind method to set the value of a function's this regardless of how it's called, and ECMAScript 2015 introduced arrow functions whose this is lexically scoped (it is set to the this value of the enclosing execution context).



Global context

In the global execution context (outside of any function), this refers to the global object, whether in strict mode or not.

console.log(this.document === document); // true

// In web browsers, the window object is also the global object:
console.log(this === window); // true

this.a = 37;
console.log(window.a); // 37

Function context

Inside a function, the value of this depends on how the function is called.

Simple call

Since the following code is not in strict mode, and because the value of this is not set by the call, this will default to the global object:

function f1(){
  return this;
// In a browser:
f1() === window; // the window is the global object in browsers

// In Node:
f1() === global

In strict mode, however, the value of this remains at whatever it was set to when entering the execution context, so, in the following case, this will default to undefined:

function f2(){
  "use strict"; // see strict mode
  return this;

f2() === undefined;

So, in strict mode, if this was not defined by the execution context, it remains undefined.

In the second example, this should be undefined, because f2 was called directly and not as a method or property of an object (e.g. window.f2()). This feature wasn't implemented in some browsers when they first started to support strict mode. As a result, they incorrectly returned the window object.

To pass the value of this from one context to another, use call, or apply:

  'use strict';

  function f3(){  
    return this;
  } === window; // global object

  function f4(){
    this.herp = "derp";
  function Thing(){
    this.thisIsEasyToUnderstand = "just kidding";;
  var thing = new Thing(); 
  // thing = { thisIsEasyToUnderstand : "just kidding", herp: "derp" };


call and apply

Where a function uses the this keyword in its body, its value can be bound to a particular object in the call using the call or apply methods which all functions inherit from Function.prototype.

function add(c, d){
  return this.a + this.b + c + d;

var o = {a:1, b:3};

// The first parameter is the object to use as
// 'this', subsequent parameters are passed as 
// arguments in the function call, 5, 7); // 1 + 3 + 5 + 7 = 16

// The first parameter is the object to use as
// 'this', the second is an array whose
// members are used as the arguments in the function call
add.apply(o, [10, 20]); // 1 + 3 + 10 + 20 = 34

Note that with call and apply, if the value passed as this is not an object, an attempt will be made to convert it to an object using the internal ToObject operation. So if the value passed is a primitive like 7 or 'foo', it will be converted to an Object using the related constructor, so the primitive number 7 is converted to an object as if by new Number(7) and the string 'foo' to an object as if by new String('foo'), e.g.

function bar() {
}; // [object Number]

The bind method

ECMAScript 5 introduced Function.prototype.bind. Calling f.bind(someObject) creates a new function with the same body and scope as f, but where this occurs in the original function, in the new function it is permanently bound to the first argument of bind, regardless of how the function is being used.

function f(){
  return this.a;

var g = f.bind({a:"azerty"});
console.log(g()); // azerty

var o = {a:37, f:f, g:g};
console.log(o.f(), o.g()); // 37, azerty

Arrow functions

In arrow functions, this is set lexically, i.e. it's set to the value of the enclosing execution context's this. In global code, it will be set to the global object:

var globalObject = this;
var foo = (() => this);
console.log(foo() === globalObject); // true

It doesn't matter how foo is called, its this will stay as the global object. This also holds if it's called as a method of an object (which would usually set its this to the object), with call or apply or bind is used:

// Call as a method of an object
var obj = {foo: foo};
console.log( === globalObject); // true

// Attempt to set this using call
console.log( === globalObject); // true

// Attempt to set this using bind
foo = foo.bind(obj);
console.log(foo() === globalObject); // true

No matter what, foo's this is set to what it was when it was created (in the example above, the global object). The same applies for arrow functions created inside other functions: their this is set to that of the outer execution context.

// Create obj with a method bar that returns a function that
// returns its this. The returned function is created as 
// an arrow function, so its this is permanently bound to the
// this of its enclosing function. The value of bar can be set
// in the call, which in turn sets the value of the 
// returned function.
var obj = { bar : function() {
                    var x = (() => this);
                    return x;

// Call bar as a method of obj, setting its this to obj
// Assign a reference to the returned function to fn
var fn =;

// Call fn without setting this, would normally default
// to the global object or undefined in strict mode
console.log(fn() === obj); // true

In the above, the function(call it anonymous function A) assigned to returns another function(call it anonymous function B) that is created as an arrow function. As a result, function B's  this is permanently set to the this of (function A)when called. When the returned function(function B) is called, its this will always be what it was set to initially. In the above code example, function B's this is set to function A's this which is obj, so it remains set to obj even when called in a manner that would normally set its this to undefined or the global object (or any other method as in the previous example in the global execution context).

As an object method

When a function is called as a method of an object, its this is set to the object the method is called on.

In the following example, when o.f() is invoked, inside the function this is bound to the o object.

var o = {
  prop: 37,
  f: function() {
    return this.prop;

console.log(o.f()); // logs 37

Note that this behavior is not at all affected by how or where the function was defined. In the previous example, we defined the function inline as the f member during the definition of o. However, we could have just as easily defined the function first and later attached it to o.f. Doing so results in the same behavior:

var o = {prop: 37};

function independent() {
  return this.prop;

o.f = independent;

console.log(o.f()); // logs 37

This demonstrates that it matters only that the function was invoked from the f member of o.

Similarly, the this binding is only affected by the most immediate member reference. In the following example, when we invoke the function, we call it as a method g of the object o.b. This time during execution, this inside the function will refer to o.b. The fact that the object is itself a member of o has no consequence; the most immediate reference is all that matters.

o.b = {g: independent, prop: 42};
console.log(o.b.g()); // logs 42

this on the object's prototype chain

The same notion holds true for methods defined somewhere on the object's prototype chain. If the method is on an object's prototype chain, this refers to the object the method was called on, as if the method was on the object.

var o = {f:function(){ return this.a + this.b; }};
var p = Object.create(o);
p.a = 1;
p.b = 4;

console.log(p.f()); // 5

In this example, the object assigned to the variable p doesn't have its own f property, it inherits it from its prototype. But it doesn't matter that the lookup for f eventually finds a member with that name on o; the lookup began as a reference to p.f, so this inside the function takes the value of the object referred to as p. That is, since f is called as a method of p, its this refers to p. This is an interesting feature of JavaScript's prototype inheritance.

this with a getter or setter

Again, the same notion holds true when a function is invoked from a getter or a setter. A function used as getter or setter has its this bound to the object from which the property is being set or gotten.

function sum(){
  return this.a + this.b + this.c;

var o = {
  a: 1,
  b: 2,
  c: 3,
  get average(){
    return (this.a + this.b + this.c) / 3;

Object.defineProperty(o, 'sum', {
    get: sum, enumerable:true, configurable:true});

console.log(o.average, o.sum); // logs 2, 6

As a constructor

When a function is used as a constructor (with the new keyword), its this is bound to the new object being constructed.

While the default for a constructor is to return the object referenced by this, it can instead return some other object (if the return value isn't an object, then the this object is returned).

 * Constructors work like this:
 * function MyConstructor(){
 *   // Actual function body code goes here.  
 *   // Create properties on |this| as
 *   // desired by assigning to them.  E.g.,
 *   this.fum = "nom";
 *   // et cetera...
 *   // If the function has a return statement that
 *   // returns an object, that object will be the
 *   // result of the |new| expression.  Otherwise,
 *   // the result of the expression is the object
 *   // currently bound to |this|
 *   // (i.e., the common case most usually seen).
 * }

function C(){
  this.a = 37;

var o = new C();
console.log(o.a); // logs 37

function C2(){
  this.a = 37;
  return {a:38};

o = new C2();
console.log(o.a); // logs 38

In the last example (C2), because an object was returned during construction, the new object that this was bound to simply gets discarded. (This essentially makes the statement "this.a = 37;" dead code. It's not exactly dead, because it gets executed, but it can be eliminated with no outside effects.)

As a DOM event handler

When a function is used as an event handler, its this is set to the element the event fired from (some browsers do not follow this convention for listeners added dynamically with methods other than addEventListener).

// When called as a listener, turns the related element blue
function bluify(e){
  // Always true
  console.log(this === e.currentTarget); 
  // true when currentTarget and target are the same object
  console.log(this ===; = '#A5D9F3';

// Get a list of every element in the document
var elements = document.getElementsByTagName('*');

// Add bluify as a click listener so when the
// element is clicked on, it turns blue
for(var i=0 ; i<elements.length ; i++){
  elements[i].addEventListener('click', bluify, false);

In an in–line event handler

When code is called from an in–line on-event handler, its this is set to the DOM element on which the listener is placed:

<button onclick="alert(this.tagName.toLowerCase());">
  Show this

The above alert shows button. Note however that only the outer code has its this set this way:

<button onclick="alert((function(){return this})());">
  Show inner this

In this case, the inner function's this isn't set so it returns the global/window object (i.e. the default object in non–strict mode where this isn't set by the call).


Specification Status Comment
ECMAScript 2017 Draft (ECMA-262)
The definition of 'The this keyword' in that specification.
ECMAScript 2015 (6th Edition, ECMA-262)
The definition of 'The this keyword' in that specification.
ECMAScript 5.1 (ECMA-262)
The definition of 'The this keyword' in that specification.
ECMAScript 3rd Edition (ECMA-262)
The definition of 'The this keyword' in that specification.
ECMAScript 1st Edition (ECMA-262)
The definition of 'The this keyword' in that specification.
Standard Initial definition. Implemented in JavaScript 1.0.

Browser compatibility

Feature Chrome Firefox (Gecko) Internet Explorer Opera Safari
Basic support (Yes) (Yes) (Yes) (Yes) (Yes)
Feature Android Chrome for Android Firefox Mobile (Gecko) IE Mobile Opera Mobile Safari Mobile
Basic support (Yes) (Yes) (Yes) (Yes) (Yes) (Yes)

See also