Skip to main content Accessibility Feedback

How to check if an element contains another one with the vanilla JS Node.contains() method

Today, we’re going to learn how to check if an element contains another one.

Let’s dig in.

An example

Let’s say you have some markup like this.


	<h1>Hi, friend</h1>

	<p>How are you today?</p>

	<ul id="list">
		<li>Be Merry</li>


	<p id="copyright">Copyright Me.</p>

And you have a few elements saved to variables, like this.

var main = document.querySelector('main');
var list = document.querySelector('#list');
var copyright = document.querySelector('#copyright');

You want to check if list and copyright are inside the main element or not.

The Node.contains() method

The Node.contains() method checks if an element is inside another, and returns a boolean: true if it is, and false if it’s not.

Call it on the parent element, and pass the element you want to check for in as an argument.

// returns true

// returns false

Here’s a demo.

Couldn’t you use the Element.closest() method for this?

Yes and no.

The Element.closest() method checks if an element contains a parent with a selector. For the example above, we could do something like this.

// returns the main element

// returns null

But because it uses a selector instead of a specific element, if there’s a different parent element with the same selector, that would get returned instead.

The Node.contains() method will give you more predictable results.

Browser compatibility

The Node.contains() method works in all modern browsers, and IE9 and above. It doesn’t work with SVG elements in IE9, but does in IE10 and up.