Gherkin: Overview, Use Cases, and Format

Mar 27, 2023 | Test Automation Insights

background with computer code

Testing is a crucial part of the software creation process. It ensures that your code is working correctly and that all bugs are found before the software lands in the hands of consumers. But it can be difficult to explain these tests and their results to investors and others that aren’t as tech-savvy. 

A language like Gherkin translates behavior test details into human language, making it easier to understand. This post will look at Gherkin’s key features in more detail and how the language can be incorporated into your testing framework.

What Is Gherkin Language Format?

Gherkin is a plain-text, simply-structured language that is easy for nonprogrammers to learn and understand. It’s also sophisticated enough to give investors to-the-point descriptions of test scenarios without confusing them. 

Combining this language with automated testing tools can save your team time and money by automating the testing process. It also allows teams to show business rules — one or more scenarios combined in one test — in various real-world domains.

Gherkin Scenarios

In Gherkin scenarios, every feature file created needs to be tested, and each file can have multiple scenarios to implement at the same time. These scenarios test what will happen when the software is used in the real world. For example, what will happen when trying to log into a website? 

These behavioral testing developments are combined into a framework to create test cases that can be explained in plain language. This phase is when the Gherkin test scenarios dictate the software testing phase that will be tested. It also provides the outline that should be followed during behavior testing.

When these tests are followed, they ensure the software is acting as it should. These files will each have a unique file name. The results will then be recorded in a human language that nontechnical team members and stakeholders can understand. 

Between the scenario steps, step definition files can store mapping that has already been defined by the feature file, which is then saved for later use. It allows the function to be performed and executed as planned and stores the results for later viewing.

Gherkin Syntax

This describes the use of line-oriented language that describes the step performed and the tools used to run that test. Each line will start with a step, and each test will start with one of the special keywords. The terminals will then end with a stop. 

An example of this is as follows: 

  • Feature: The title of the scenario given
  • When: This will be the event that is triggered or what you are doing to perform the event
  • Then: What is expected to happen

The Gherkin Syntax builds a bridge between the real-world concept of cause and effect and the software concept that shows software input, process, and output. It is a script for your scenario that translates the details from behavior tests into business-readable language. You can also add comments inside the testing language. 

To execute this, you need software testing platforms like Ranorex behavioral-driven development frameworks. Ranorex can also help integrate your Gherkin-built platform with your BDD framework. 

Cucumber Implementation

Gherkin comes from the open-source testing tool Cucumber, which has multi-language features to help the nontechnical team members understand the results and purpose of the test being run. It gives the user the tools to translate the coded language into a language most people can understand without leaving out important information found during testing. 

Some of the benefits of Gherkin and Cucumber are: 

  • It is easy to understand 
  • It helps programmers build a solid base for their tests
  • It makes user errors easier to find 
  • Nontechnical personnel, like business executives, can easily understand the results
  • It will target business requirements 
  • Functional specifications can be written as user stories, making it easier to understand
  • Most people can understand Gherkin’s commands
  • It can directly be linked to automated tests
  • It is easy to implement in other tests

Gherkin Use Cases

The goal is to quickly get your software on the market with as few bugs as possible. That is why the testing phase is so crucial for the creation process. But how do you use Gherkin during this phase? 

Add it to the tests. Automated testing tools have sped up the process massively. Manual testing takes up a lot of time and manpower, but tools like Ranorex DesignWise will help you automate much of your work. 

It allows you to fill in the gaps created in standard test automation and detects more faults in less time. Yet, the results are the only way that teams can fix any problems that could have shown up in the testing phase. 

The good news is that DesignWise can integrate its programming into language tools like Gherkin syntax. This gives the bonus feature of making the results accessible. Gherkin can be used in most tests to allow access to the results to everyone on your team. 

These tests are use cases. One example is using it in functional testing. The test can determine if the software is working as it should in which the coders won’t need to translate the result of the tests. Instead, these testing tools can show the shareholders, testing teams, and developers exactly where you are in the creative process. Those that aren’t technically inclined can still understand the results. 

This is one use case. But in reality, Gherkin can be used in almost any type of automated software test that you can imagine. 

Important Gherkin Keywords

Gherkin is a language-based tool that works as a translator between code and human language. Thus, some keywords are universally important to the Gherkin software feature. 

These feature descriptions help with step definitions — where Gherkin executes a step in the scenario so that those who are reading the results can know exactly where they were in the testing process. The keywords are used to create the syntax and input into features. 

User interactions are made easier with these keywords. But to use this feature description and understand it, you will need to know the keywords and what they represent. Then when Gherkin analyzes each step in the definition file, you can interpret the results. 


One of the first test steps used in Gherkin is the word “Given”. It explains everything that is seen on the screen, meaning what a user sees on their device while using your software (code).

The scenario can show:

  • That a user busy in “Given” can see the login screen
  • What they see when logged in
  • Where they go from there. 


Next is the keyword “When”. This is a test to see what a user will do. For example, how they input their login details or other tasks that have to be performed to proceed to the next screen.

If there is an error in the code, then the language that is read in the results won’t be completely clear. The Gherkin results don’t say that there is a mistake. Instead, the language in the results doesn’t feel quite right. 


This step shows what the user should expect. It lets the user know what to look out for. If the user is going to open a piece of code that has images, then the test will ensure that the picture is perfectly centered and fits where it should be. 

It shows the outcome of the tests and what you will see when this step has been performed. For example, when you press the open button, you will expect to see the next page opening up. 

And and But

“And” can be used when you want to change your steps. It modifies or adds conditions to the step that you have created. 

“But”, on the other hand, will add negative comments to your test results. It shows that you are getting opposite results than what you are supposed to be getting. 


This keyword will often be used for many of the same tests and multiple files. For example, if you are creating an online shopping platform, the background will be used to test the “add to cart” function or the payment function. 

Use Automated Testing to Streamline Your Work

The testing phase when creating software can take up a lot of time since it is crucial to creating a quality product. But with automated testing tools — like those that you can get from Ranorex — the testing phase can be streamlined. Thus, combining these automated tests with the Gherkin format will allow your entire team to understand the results and make changes as needed. 

Contact us today to find out how our automated testing tools can help your team and how we can add multiple language features to these tests. 

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