How to Resolve a Merge Conflict

Merge conflicts are a common part of working with version control systems like Git. They happen when changes from different branches conflict and can’t be automatically merged. While they can seem intimidating, resolving merge conflicts is a skill that can be learned with practice. In this article, we’ll break down the steps to resolve a merge conflict, making the process straightforward and manageable.

Understanding Merge Conflicts

A merge conflict occurs when Git can’t automatically combine changes from different branches. This usually happens when:

  1. Two branches modify the same line of a file.
  2. One branch deletes a file while another modifies it.

When a conflict arises, Git pauses the merge process and lets you resolve the conflict manually.

Here are the steps to Resolve a Merge Conflict.

Identify the Conflict

When you try to merge branches and encounter a conflict, Git will notify you. The output will indicate which files have conflicts. For example:

Open the Conflicted File

Open the conflicted file in your favourite text editor. You’ll see conflict markers that look like this:

Resolve the Conflict

Manually edit the file to resolve the conflict. Decide what the final version should look like. You can choose one change, combine it, or write something entirely new. After editing, remove the conflict markers.

For example:

Mark the Conflict as Resolved and Complete the Merge

After editing and saving the file, you need to tell Git that the conflict has been resolved. You do this by adding the resolved file. Once all conflicts are resolved and the files are staged, complete the merge by committing the changes:

Tips for Avoiding Merge Conflicts:

  • Communicate with your team: Effective communication tools and methods include daily stand-ups for quick updates, using Slack for real-time messaging and collaboration and regular branch updates to sync with the main branch to minimize conflicts.
  • Commit frequently: Smaller commits are advantageous because they simplify code reviews, make conflict resolution easier, and enhance traceability for identifying issues.
  • Use feature flags. Feature flags are a technique that allows developers to enable or disable specific functionality within a codebase without deploying new code, providing granular control over feature visibility. They support gradual rollouts, continuous delivery, and quick rollbacks, mitigating risks and facilitating safe experimentation. This approach enables parallel development and staged integration, improving collaboration and managing complex changes effectively.

Separate new features from the main codebase until they’re ready to be integrated.


Merge conflicts are a normal part of collaborative software development. While they can be frustrating, understanding how to resolve them effectively is crucial. By following these steps and practising regularly, you’ll become more confident in handling merge conflicts, keeping your project on track and your codebase clean.