event.preventDefault() vs. return false: Which is the Better Way to Stop Event Propagation?


Event propagation is a fundamental aspect of web development, especially when dealing with user interactions and event handling. When a certain event is triggered, such as a click or a submit, it often leads to subsequent actions or behaviors. However, in some cases, we may want to prevent other event handlers from executing after a specific event is fired. This is where techniques like event.preventDefault() and return false come into play.

The Difference Between event.preventDefault() and return false

Let's start by understanding the key difference between event.preventDefault() and return false.

event.preventDefault() is a method used to prevent the default action of an event from occurring. For example, if you have a link with an <a> tag, calling event.preventDefault() will prevent the browser from following the link and navigating to the specified URL.

$('a').click(function (e) {
    // custom handling here

On the other hand, return false is a statement that can be used within an event handler to stop event propagation. It not only prevents the default action, but also stops the event from bubbling up the DOM tree to trigger parent or ancestor event handlers.

$('a').click(function () {
    // custom handling here
    return false;

So, while event.preventDefault() focuses solely on preventing the default action, return false goes a step further and halts the entire event propagation process.

Choosing Between event.preventDefault() and return false

Now that we understand the basic difference, let's discuss the factors to consider when choosing between event.preventDefault() and return false.

Simplicity, Length, and Error Prone Nature

As mentioned in the problem description, return false is simpler, shorter, and possibly less error-prone than using event.preventDefault(). With return false, there is no need to remember about correct casing, parenthesis, or explicitly defining the first parameter in the callback. This can be particularly beneficial for developers who prefer a more concise and straightforward syntax.

Additional Event Handlers

If you are using return false within an event handler, it will not only prevent the default action and stop event propagation, but it will also prevent any additional event handlers from executing. This can be useful in situations where you want to completely control the behavior of an element and ensure that no other handlers interfere.

For example, consider a scenario where you have a form submission and you want to perform some client-side validation before submitting the data. By using return false, you can halt the event propagation and prevent the form from being submitted if the validation fails:

$('form').submit(function () {
    // perform validation
    if (validationFailed) {
        return false;

Multiple Event Handlers

If you have multiple event handlers attached to an element and you want to selectively prevent the default action or stop event propagation based on certain conditions, event.preventDefault() provides more flexibility and control.

Let's say you have a button with both a click handler and a hover handler:

$('button').click(function (e) {
    if (condition) {

$('button').hover(function () {
    // additional handling

In this case, using event.preventDefault() allows you to conditionally prevent the click action based on certain criteria, while still allowing the hover behavior to proceed unaffected.


Both event.preventDefault() and return false serve the purpose of stopping event propagation and preventing the default action. However, the choice between the two depends on your specific requirements and development style.

If simplicity, brevity, and preventing additional event handlers are key concerns, then return false may be the preferred approach for you. On the other hand, if you need more fine-grained control and conditional handling of default actions, event.preventDefault() provides the necessary flexibility.

As with any coding decision, it's important to consider the context, readability, and maintainability of the code. Use the technique that aligns best with your coding style and project requirements to ensure clean and effective event handling in your web applications.