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Understanding the Difference Between `let` and `var` in JavaScript

Anchal Rastogi
~ 7 min read | Published on Apr 12, 2024


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JavaScript has long been the backbone of web development, enabling developers to create dynamic, interactive websites that serve billions of users worldwide. As the language evolves, new features and improvements are introduced, leading to better performance, more robust applications, and cleaner code. Among these improvements, the introduction of let in ES6 (ECMAScript 2015) has sparked discussions and confusion about its differences from the traditional var keyword. This article aims to demystify these two variable declaration statements, highlighting their differences, best practices, and when to use each, making it an essential read for developers of all levels.

Scope: The Fundamental Difference

The primary difference between let and var lies in their scope. var is function-scoped, meaning it is accessible within the entire function it is declared in, regardless of block scope. On the other hand, let is block-scoped, meaning it can only be accessed within the block (denoted by curly braces {}) where it was declared.

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Code Snippet: Scope Demonstration

function varTest() {
  var x = 1;
  if (true) {
    var x = 2;  // same variable!
    console.log(x);  // 2
  console.log(x);  // 2

function letTest() {
  let y = 1;
  if (true) {
    let y = 2;  // different variable
    console.log(y);  // 2
  console.log(y);  // 1

The varTest function illustrates how var's function-scoped nature allows the variable x to be overwritten inside the if block, affecting the outer scope. In contrast, letTest demonstrates let's block-scoping, where the y variable inside the if block is treated as a completely separate variable from the one outside, preserving both values.

Hoisting: A Subtle Complexity

Another important difference is how let and var are hoisted. Hoisting is JavaScript's default behavior of moving declarations to the top of their scope before code execution.

  • var declarations are hoisted to the top of their function or global scope if declared outside a function, and they are initialized with undefined.
  • let, while also hoisted to the top of its block, does not get initialized. Accessing a let variable before its declaration results in a ReferenceError.

Code Snippet: Hoisting Behavior

console.log(a); // undefined
var a = 3;

console.log(b); // ReferenceError: Cannot access 'b' before initialization
let b = 4;

This demonstrates the safer programming style encouraged by let, as it helps avoid errors stemming from uninitialized variables.

Temporal Dead Zone (TDZ)

Linked to hoisting and initializing, the Temporal Dead Zone is a term used to describe the state where variables are in a scope but not yet declared.

  • Variables declared with var are hoisted and initialized with undefined, meaning they are accessible in their scope before the actual declaration line.
  • Variables declared with let are in the TDZ from the start of their block until the declaration is executed. Accessing them in the TDZ throws a ReferenceError.

Understanding the TDZ is crucial for developers, as it reinforces the importance of declaring variables at the beginning of their scope and avoids the pitfalls of hoisting.

Global Object Property

When declared globally, var variables become properties of the global object (e.g., window in browsers), while let variables do not. This distinction is important for understanding the global scope and avoiding unintentional global variables.

var globalVar = "I'm a global variable";
console.log(window.globalVar); // "I'm a global variable"

let globalLet = "I'm not attached to the global object";
console.log(window.globalLet); // undefined


In the same scope, var allows re-declaration of the same variable, potentially leading to bugs, while let does not, throwing a syntax error if attempted. This behavior makes let a safer choice for variable declaration, as it helps avoid accidental variable overwrites.

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The differences between let and var are crucial for writing clean, efficient, and error-free JavaScript. By understanding and utilizing the block-scoping, hoisting behaviors, and other distinctions of let, developers can avoid common pitfalls associated with var.

As developers, it's also essential to have the right tools to debug and monitor our applications. Zipy's tool offers comprehensive monitoring and error-handling capabilities, along with session replay features to understand exactly what went wrong and why. Explore how Zipy can enhance your development workflow by visiting Zipy's website.

Embracing modern JavaScript features like let and integrating robust development tools are steps toward creating more reliable, maintainable, and bug-free web applications. Happy coding!

Read more resources Javascript concepts

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