Javascript pass by value and pass by reference

In this blog post, we are going to understand pass by value and pass by reference in Javascript.

It is important to understand this, in order to improve the javascript development and debugging skills.

Pass by value

In javascript, all primitive types are passed by value, to understand this let’s take a look at the following example -

myNumber = 10;

here, the value 10 is stored somewhere in the memory and the variable myNumber has the address location of the memory where the value 10 is stored.

and now lets suppose if we setup a new variable otherNumber which is equal to myNumber

otherNumber = myNumber

since myNumber points to a memory location containing primitive type value 10, otherNumber points to a new memory location and the copy of primitive value is stored in that memory location. That means the variables myNumber and otherNumber are pointing to two different memory locations but the same value 10 is stored in those two memory locations.

This process is called Pass by value.

That means, if we change myNumber then it should not affect otherNumber because they are pointing to two different locations in memory.

Let’s try changing the value of myNumber to 20

myNumber = 20

when you run this, you should see the following output as expected -


same approach is followed when a primitive type value is passed to the function as a parameter.

Pass by reference

All objects in Javascript (including functions, remember functions are first class objects) are passed by reference. consider an example

var person = {"name": "Sachin"};

as usual, JS allocates memory to store an object {"name": "Sachin"} and the variable person points to that memory location. but what happens when we assign person to new variable let’s say person1 is interesting

var person1 = person;

now in this case, instead of creating a new memory space for person1 and copying the object in to that memory, JS simply makes person1 point to the same memory location where the var person is pointing to.

that means if we mutate (to change something) person like below = "Vijay";

and log both person and person1, what do you think will happen?


remember that when it comes to objects, the variables which are set equal to each other simply points to the same memory location. So in this case changing person will change person1 as well. Think of it like a person having an alias name but his address remains the same. We should see the following output

{name: "Vijay"}
{name: "Vijay"}

and again, you should see the same behavior when objects are passed to the functions as parameters.

function changePerson(pObj) { = "Ramesh";

when we pass the object person to the function, it is passed by reference, let’s log person and person1 now and we should see that the property name of object person and person1 set to the value Ramesh.


This is known as pass by reference.

Thank you for reading the Agiliq blog. This article was written by Manjunath Hugar on May 18, 2020 in JSJavascript .

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