Liskov Substitution Principle in Functional TypeScript

If it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, but needs batteries, you probably have the wrong abstraction.

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This is part three of a five-part series about SOLID principles in functional TypeScript.

What is the Liskov Substitution Principle?

The Liskov substitution principle (LSP) is one of the five SOLID principles. It states that:

"Objects in a program should be [substitutable] with instances of their subtypes without altering the correctness of that program."

The requirements for substitutability are complex but can be summarized as follows: a subtype should not change the assumptions about its supertype.

If we expect a certain behavior from a type, its subtypes should honor it. Thus, a client can use any subtype confidently. This helps decouple the client from the code it uses and improves interoperability.

A client of a supertype shouldn't have to behave differently depending on which subtype it uses.

Also, considering the behavior of the subtypes becomes predictable, the LSP proves itself an instance of the principle of least astonishment.

In short, the Liskov substitution principle promotes the right abstraction.


In geometry, a square is a rectangle with even sides. One could be tempted to frame this relation by having a Square extend a Rectangle.

To illustrate why this is suboptimal, let's first use OOP since most LSP violations involve inheritance:

class Rectangle {
  constructor(private width: number, private length: number) {}

  public setWidth(width: number) {
    this.width = width;

  public setLength(length: number) {
    this.length = length;

  public getArea() {
    return this.width * this.length;
class Square extends Rectangle {
  constructor(side: number) {
    super(side, side);

  public setWidth(width: number) {
    // A square must maintain equal sides

  public setLength(length: number) {

Now if a client was to use a Rectangle (or a Square):

const rect: Rectangle = new Square(10); // Can be either a Rectangle or a Square
expect(rect.getArea()).toBe(200); // ❌ If rect is a Square, area is 400

Rectangle assumes an area of 200. Square breaks that behavior by expecting an area of 400. Therefore, Rectangle and Square are not substitutable.

While this design is still serviceable, it fails the Liskov test and misses out on the benefits mentioned earlier. Moreover, clients of our code may have to adapt, like so:

const rect: Rectangle = new Square(10);
if (rect instanceof Square) {
  // ...
} else {
  // ...

But this only circumvents the actual problem. In fact:

Type checking a polymorphic value is a good indicator of an LSP violation.

Visibly, the Liskov substitution principle is telling us Rectangle is not a good abstraction for Square.

A possible solution would be to revisit the abstraction with a generic Shape instead:

interface Shape {
  getArea: () => number;

interface Rectangle extends Shape {
  width: number;
  length: number;

interface Square extends Shape {
  sides: number;

// Implementation...

Now, Shape is substitutable by both Rectangle and Square, because none of the two subtypes break the behavior defined by Shape.

As you might have noticed, steering clear from inheritance is one way to avoid LSP violations. Which is yet another example of composition over inheritance.

In conclusion

The LSP goes a quack further from the open-closed principle because not only should we prefer extending modules over modifying them, we should avoid modifying existing behaviors from said extensions; only build over it.

More on SOLID principles

Alex Nault
By Alex Nault
I write bite-sized articles for developers