JavaScript Optional Chaining: Simplifying Access to Nested Properties

3 min read
JavaScript Optional Chaining


JavaScript optional chaining is a powerful feature introduced in ECMAScript 2020 (ES11) that allows developers to simplify property access when dealing with nested objects and potentially nullable values. It provides a concise and safe way to access properties without triggering errors.

The Problem with Nested Properties

When working with complex data structures, it is common to encounter deeply nested objects. Accessing properties within such objects requires multiple dot notation lookups, which can become tedious and error-prone. Additionally, if any intermediate property in the chain is undefined or null, accessing a nested property would result in a runtime error.

For example:

const user = {
  name: 'John Doe',
  address: {
    city: 'New York',
    zipCode: '12345',
    // country is undefined

console.log(; // Uncaught TypeError: Cannot read property 'country' of undefined

In the example above, accessing throws an error because the address object exists, but the country property is undefined.

Optional Chaining to the Rescue

Optional chaining provides a concise solution to handle the uncertainty of nested properties. It allows developers to safely access properties without throwing an error if an intermediate property is undefined or null. Instead of causing a runtime error, it returns undefined, indicating that the property does not exist in the chain.

Using optional chaining, the previous example can be safely rewritten as:

const country = user?.address?.country;

console.log(country); // undefined

With optional chaining, accessing user?.address?.country returns undefined without throwing an error. If any intermediate property is undefined or null, the result is immediately short-circuited and the chain evaluation stops.

Combining Optional Chaining with Nullish Coalescing

Optional chaining can be combined with the nullish coalescing operator (??) to provide default values for potentially missing properties. The nullish coalescing operator returns the right-hand side value only if the left-hand side value is null or undefined.

For example:

const country = user?.address?.country ?? 'Unknown';

console.log(country); // 'Unknown'

In this case, if is undefined or null, the nullish coalescing operator sets the default value to 'Unknown'.

Browser Compatibility

JavaScript optional chaining is a relatively new feature, introduced in ECMAScript 2020. As a result, it may not be supported in older browsers. Before using optional chaining in production, ensure that your target browsers and environments support this feature. Alternatively, you can leverage transpilers like Babel to convert your code to an older JavaScript version for broader compatibility.


JavaScript optional chaining simplifies accessing nested properties, providing a concise and safe syntax. By using optional chaining, developers can avoid runtime errors when dealing with potentially undefined or null values within nested objects. This feature improves code readability and reduces the need for manual null checks, resulting in cleaner and more robust code.