Are variables declared with let or const not hoisted in ES6?

Are variables declared with let or const not hoisted in ES6?

I have been playing with ES6 for a while and I noticed that while variables declared with var are hoisted as expected…
console.log(typeof name); // undefined
var name = “John”;

…variables declared with let or const seem to have some problems with hoisting:
console.log(typeof name); // ReferenceError
let name = “John”;

and
console.log(typeof name); // ReferenceError
const name = “John”;

Does this mean that variables declared with let or const are not hoisted? What is really going on here? Is there any difference between let and const in this matter?

Solutions/Answers:

Solution 1:

@thefourtheye is correct in saying that these variables cannot be accessed before they are declared. However, it’s a bit more complicated than that.

Are variables declared with let or const not hoisted? What is really going on here?

All declarations (var, let, const, function, function*, class) are “hoisted” in JavaScript. This means that if a name is declared in a scope, in that scope the identifier will always reference that particular variable:

x = "global";
// function scope:
(function() {
    x; // not "global"

    var/let/… x;
}());
// block scope (not for `var`s):
{
    x; // not "global"

    let/const/… x;
}

This is true both for function and block scopes1.

The difference between var/function/function* declarations and let/const/class declara­tions is the initialisation.
The former are initialised with undefined or the (generator) function right when the binding is created at the top of the scope. The lexically declared variables however stay uninitialised. This means that a ReferenceError exception is thrown when you try to access it. It will only get initialised when the let/const/class statement is evaluated, everything before (above) that is called the temporal dead zone.

x = y = "global";
(function() {
    x; // undefined
    y; // Reference error: y is not defined

    var x = "local";
    let y = "local";
}());

Notice that a let y; statement initialises the variable with undefined like let y = undefined; would have.

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The temporal dead zone is not a syntactic location, but rather the time between the variable (scope) creation and the initialisation. It’s not an error to reference the variable in code above the declaration as long as that code is not executed (e.g. a function body or simply dead code), and it will throw an exception if you access the variable before the initialisation even if the accessing code is below the declaration (e.g. in a hoisted function declaration that is called too early).

Is there any difference between let and const in this matter?

No, they work the same as far as hoisting is regarded. The only difference between them is that a constant must be and can only be assigned in the initialiser part of the declaration (const one = 1;, both const one; and later reassignments like one = 2 are invalid).

1: var declarations are still working only on the function level, of course

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Solution 2:

Quoting ECMAScript 6 (ECMAScript 2015) specification’s, let and const declarations section,

The variables are created when their containing Lexical Environment is instantiated but may not be accessed in any way until the variable’s LexicalBinding is evaluated.

So, to answer your question, yes, let and const hoist but you cannot access them before the actual declaration is evaluated at runtime.

Solution 3:

ES6 introduces Let variables which comes up with block level scoping. Until ES5 we did not have block level scoping, so the variables which are declared inside a block are always hoisted to function level scoping.

Basically Scope refers to where in your program your variables are visible, which determines where you are allowed to use variables you have declared. In ES5 we have global scope,function scope and try/catch scope, with ES6 we also get the block level scoping by using Let.

  • When you define a variable with var keyword, it’s known the entire function from the moment it’s defined.
  • When you define a variable with let statement it’s only known in the block it’s defined.

     function doSomething(arr){
         //i is known here but undefined
         //j is not known here
    
         console.log(i);
         console.log(j);
    
         for(var i=0; i<arr.length; i++){
             //i is known here
         }
    
         //i is known here
         //j is not known here
    
         console.log(i);
         console.log(j);
    
         for(let j=0; j<arr.length; j++){
             //j is known here
         }
    
         //i is known here
         //j is not known here
    
         console.log(i);
         console.log(j);
     }
    
     doSomething(["Thalaivar", "Vinoth", "Kabali", "Dinesh"]);
    

If you run the code, you could see the variable j is only known in the loop and not before and after. Yet, our variable i is known in the entire function from the moment it is defined onward.

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There is another great advantage using let as it creates a new lexical environment and also binds fresh value rather than keeping an old reference.

for(var i=1; i<6; i++){
   setTimeout(function(){
      console.log(i);
   },1000)
}

for(let i=1; i<6; i++){
   setTimeout(function(){
      console.log(i);
   },1000)
}

The first for loop always print the last value, with let it creates a new scope and bind fresh values printing us 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.

Coming to constants, it work basically like let, the only difference is their value can’t be changed. In constants mutation is allowed but reassignment is not allowed.

const foo = {};
foo.bar = 42;
console.log(foo.bar); //works

const name = []
name.push("Vinoth");
console.log(name); //works

const age = 100;
age = 20; //Throws Uncaught TypeError: Assignment to constant variable.

console.log(age);

If a constant refers to an object, it will always refer to the object but the object itself can be changed (if it is mutable). If you like to have an immutable object, you could use Object.freeze([])