The difference between break and continue in JavaScript

In JavaScript, the break and continue statements both let you control what’s happening inside a loop. But they do very different things. Let’s jump right in and look at the differences!

For the following examples, let’s assume an array of flavours for crisps (or “flavors” and “chips” if you’re American ):

let flavours = [
  "Ready Salted",
  "Salt & Vinegar",
  "Cheese & Onion"
];

The break statement

The break statement completely terminates the loop. After encountering this statement, the loop will not run any further iterations. Control of the script will be returned to the code that comes after the loop.

Given the following code:

for (let i = 0; i < flavours.length; i++) {

  // If the current flavour is "Salt & Vinegar", terminate the loop
  if (flavours[i] === "Salt & Vinegar") break;

  // Log the current flavour
  console.log(flavours[i]);

}

Only Ready Salted will be logged.

This is because when the current flavour becomes Salt & Vinegar, the break statement completely terminates the loop.

There will be no further iterations.

The continue statement

The continue statement skips the current iteration of the loop. After encountering this statement, the rest of the loop will keep running.

If we change our loop to use the continue statement:

for (let i = 0; i < flavours.length; i++) {

  // If the current flavour is "Salt & Vinegar", skip it
  if (flavours[i] === "Salt & Vinegar") continue;

  // Log the current flavour
  console.log(flavours[i]);

}

Only Ready Salted and Cheese & Onion will be logged.

This is because when the current flavour becomes Salt & Vinegar, the continue statement skips that iteration only.

The subsequent iterations will still happen.

Summary

  1. The break statement will completely terminate the loop.
  2. The continue statement will skip the current iteration only.

I usually default to the Array.forEach() method for iterating over arrays, but it’s important to understand the differences between these statements. The old-school for and while loops are still invaluable tools in your arsenal.

If you’re not sure whether to use the Array.forEach() method or a more traditional loop, check out my friend Chris Ferdinandi’s article:

The anatomy of a for loop in vanilla JS (and when you would want to use it instead of Array.forEach()).


If you have questions, feedback, or any other suggestions, please do email me. I'd love to hear from you!