JavaScript async

Quick reference


async (ES2017)

  • Functions marked as async return a Promise implicitly (using the return keyword)
  • If a function returns a promise explicitly (return new Promise...) it doesn’t need to be marked as async
  • Prefer the use of async to returning a Promise explicitly when possible

await (ES2017)

  • The await operator is used to wait for a Promise
  • It can only be used inside an async function

.then (ES6)

  • Used after calling a function that returns a Promise
  • Prefer await to .then when possible

Promise (ES6)

  • Prefer async to returning a Promise when possible
  • Only use Promises in situations where you can’t use async/await, e.g.:
    • Use the Promise constructor to wrap callback/asynchronous functions that do not already support promises/async
    • Use .then to call an async function (or function that returns a Promise) when you can’t make that function async

Async/await (ES2017, preferred)

Important: async/await is merely syntactic sugar for Promises, so you must understand Promises first. See below for more information.


async is syntactic sugar used to create a function which implicitly returns a Promise:

async function returnPromise() {
  // ...

Throwing an error inside an async function

Use throw as you would with synchronous code

Calling an async function

Use await (Note: As mentioned above, await can only be used inside an async function. To call an async function from a non-async function you must use .then (see below under Promises))

value = await returnPromise();

Catching errors

Use try/catch as you would with synchronous code

try {
  await doSomething();
} catch {
  // ...

Promises (ES6)

Creating a Promise using the Promise constructor

Note: using async is preferred. See above for more information.

function returnPromise() {
  return new Promise((resolve, reject) => {
    if (successCondition) {
    } else {

Calling reject is optional; if any exceptions are encountered, the Promise rejection will be automatically handled:

function returnPromise() {
  return new Promise((resolve) => {
    if (successCondition) {

Throwing errors in Promises

Use reject as detailed above. Do not use throw (

Using a Promise

Note: using await is preferred. See above for more information.

Use .then:

promise().then((value) => {
  // do something with value

Catching errors

If you don’t explicitly handle errors when using .then, they will be passed to the calling function (similarly to what happens with synchronous code when you don’t handle errors).

If you do wish to explicitly handle errors, use .catch (here’s why:

  .then((value) => {
    return value;
  .catch((reason) => {
    return reason;


You can use Promise.all to fulfill an array of promises asynchronously. The easiest way to call Promise.all is to use await:

await Promise.all(arrayOfPromises);


Using await to call a function that returns a Promise

function sleep(ms) {
  return new Promise((resolve) => setTimeout(resolve, ms));

async function demo() {
  console.log('Taking a break...');
  await sleep(2000);
  console.log('Two seconds later');

If you need an inline timeout for testing/troubleshooting (don’t do this in production 😉):

await new Promise((resolve) => setTimeout(resolve, 5000));