By this below definition(pre 1.8) of Iterable,

package java.lang;

import java.util.Iterator;

public interface Iterable<T> {
    Iterator<T> iterator();

I would say that, Iterable is dependent on Iterator interface as shown below,

package java.util;

public interface Iterator<E> {

    boolean hasNext();

    E next();

    default void remove() {
        throw new UnsupportedOperationException("remove");


Standard recommendation is that, any implementation that implements Iterable interface becomes iterable.

But syntactically, MyClasscan implement interface Iterator and enable the implementation MyClass as iterable without explicitly mentioning class MyClass **implements Iterable**{}, by adding Iterator<T> iterator(); behavior in Iterator interface instead of Iterable interface. This would have simplified presenting only one interface(Iterator). Iterator can hold all the responsibilities that Iterable does.

So, What is the rational behind adding Iterator<T> iterator(); behavior in Iterable(redundant) interface instead of Iterator interface?

I am not clear with the purpose of introducing Iterable interface.

Please help me understand.

For me, this is not a duplicate question because this is an answer which talks about violation of SRP.

  • 2
    possible duplicate of Is there a difference between iterable and enumerable? Jul 23, 2015 at 6:48
  • For me, this is not duplicate question, below answer gives exact reason: Being an iterator (keeping track of the act of iterating over elements), and being able to build new iterators are two different responsibilities as mentioned below. None of the previous questions answered this exact reason. Jul 23, 2015 at 7:10
  • @KonradMorawski one can argue that question boils down to matters of single-responsibility and as such, is also a duplicate of What is the real responsibility of a class? :)
    – gnat
    Jul 23, 2015 at 12:44
  • @gnat i might have pasted a wrong link, i can't remember. anyway, this question is actually much more similar to 2 questions posted on StackOverflow - see the links in my answer. but since SO is technically another site, the input form wouldn't let me submit a link to neither of them Jul 23, 2015 at 12:48

1 Answer 1


Iterator is stateful, Iterable is stateless.

Iterator knows where it is at the moment, but Iterable shouldn't, because it can be iterated by two (or more) independent "actors".

Basically Iterable is able to provide anyone with a brand new Iterator on demand.

It looks like this question keeps on coming up, although mostly on StackOverflow not here:



  • What is the advantage of introducing Iterable and making it stateless? what is the disadvantage in making iterator() method sit in Iterator interface? As said: Iterable implies that one may obtain an iterator from an object to traverse over its elements, this responsibility can be hold by Iterator Jul 23, 2015 at 6:55
  • 2
    @overexchange you don't want your iterable MyClass instance to know that it's being iterated by someone right now, and to keep track of it - to know that this someone is on the 5th element at the moment ;) For one, because it would make difficult for someone else to iterate over its elements at the same time. As for squashing Iterable and Iterator into one interface, it would violate Single Responsibility Principle. Being an iterator (keeping track of the act of iterating over elements), and being able to build new iterators are two different responsibilities. Jul 23, 2015 at 7:00
  • @overexchange and you wouldn't want your MyClass to be its own iterator, for the reasons explained above - but if Iterable and Iterator were combined in one interface, you could not avoid it. Jul 23, 2015 at 7:01
  • to be its own iterator? I would not try mentioning class Myclass implements Iterator{} instead the private inner class would implement Iterator. I agree with your point that single interface violates SRP. Jul 23, 2015 at 7:06
  • @overexchange ok I see - but if you only had Iterator as an inner class, how would the outer world know that it can iterate over MyClass in a for ... in loop? Making it Iterable says that explicitly and it seems like the cleanest possible way Jul 23, 2015 at 7:24

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