Also known as

Refactoring Separate Query from Modifier


Do you have a method that returns a value but also changes something inside an object?


Split the method into two separate methods. As you would expect, one of them should return the value and the other one modifies the object.
Separate Query from Modifier - Before
Separate Query from Modifier - After

Why Refactor

This factoring technique implements Command and Query Responsibility Segregation. This principle tells us to separate code responsible for getting data from code that changes something inside an object.

Code for getting data is named a query. Code for changing things in the visible state of an object is named a modifier. When a query and modifier are combined, you do not have a way to get data without making changes to its condition. In other words, you ask a question and can change the answer even as it is being received. This problem becomes even more severe when the person calling the query may not know about the method's "side effects", which often leads to runtime errors.

But remember that side effects are dangerous only in the case of modifiers that change the visible state of an object. These could be, for example, fields accessible from an object's public interface, entry in a database, in files, etc. If a modifier only caches a complex operation and saves it within the private field of a class, it can hardly cause any side effects.


  • If you have a query that does not change the state of your program, you can call it as many times as you like without having to worry about unintended changes in the result caused by the mere fact of you calling the method.


  • In some cases it is convenient to get data after performing a command. For example, when deleting something from a database you want to know how many rows were deleted.

How to Refactor

  1. Create a new query method to return what the original method did.

  2. Change the original method so that it returns only the result of calling the new query method.

  3. Replace all references to the original method with a call to the query method but immediately before this line, insert a call to the original method.

  4. Get rid of the value-returning code in the original method, which now has become a proper modifier method.

Tired of reading?

No wonder, there are 7 hours worth of the text on this website.

Try out something different. We've just launched the interactive learning course on refactoring. It has more content and much more fun than a boring text.

Learn more...

Live Example

First time here? No worries!

Everything is quite simple. This example is like video (but much cooler):

  1. After pressing the Play button, you will see floating messages, which will guide you through the example. You can proceed by clicking on them.
  2. You can fast-forward or return to previous steps by pressing arrow buttons on the left.
  3. Also, you can take a look at the code diff window, which will show what has changed in code during the example ()
  4. To check the code for errors, you can press "Compile and test" button ()