C++ FAQ Celebrating Twenty-One Years of the C++ FAQ!!!
(Click here for a personal note from Marshall Cline.)
Section 21:
[21.9] Perhaps Ellipse should inherit from Circle then?

If Circle is the base class and Ellipse is the derived class, then you run into a whole new set of problems. For example, suppose Circle has a radius() method. Then Ellipse will also need to have a radius() method, but that doesn't make much sense: what does it even mean for a possibly assymetric ellipse to have a radius?

If you get over that hurdle, such as by having Ellipse::radius() return the average of the major and minor axes or whatever, then there is a problem with the relationship between radius() and area(). Suppose Circle has an area() method that promises to return 3.14159[etc] times the square whatever radius() returns. Then either Ellipse::area() will not return the true area of the ellipse, or you'll have to stand on your head to get radius() to return something that matches the above formula.

Even if you get past that one, such as by having Ellipse::radius() return the square root of the ellipse's area divided by pi, you'll get stuck by the circumference() method. Suppose Circle has a circumference() method that promises to return two times pi times whatever is returned by radius(). Now you're stuck: there's no way to make all those constraints work out for Ellipse: the Ellipse class will have to lie about its area, its circumference, or both.

Bottom line: you can make anything inherit from anything provided the methods in the derived class abide by the promises made in the base class. But you ought not to use inheritance just because you feel like it, or just because you want to get code reuse. You should use inheritance (a) only if the derived class's methods can abide by all the promises made in the base class, and (b) only if you don't think you'll confuse your users, and (c) only if there's something to be gained by using the inheritance — some real, measurable improvement in time, money or risk.