By Gordon


2010-09-17 16:24:07 8 Comments

What is this?

This is a collection of questions that come up every now and then about syntax in PHP. This is also a Community Wiki, so everyone is invited to participate in maintaining this list.

Why is this?

It used to be hard to find questions about operators and other syntax tokens.¹
The main idea is to have links to existing questions on Stack Overflow, so it's easier for us to reference them, not to copy over content from the PHP Manual.

Note: Since January 2013, Stack Overflow does support special characters. Just surround the search terms by quotes, e.g. [php] "==" vs "==="

What should I do here?

If you have been pointed here by someone because you have asked such a question, please find the particular syntax below. The linked pages to the PHP manual along with the linked questions will likely answer your question then. If so, you are encouraged to upvote the answer. This list is not meant as a substitute to the help others provided.

The List

If your particular token is not listed below, you might find it in the List of Parser Tokens.


& Bitwise Operators or References


=& References


&= Bitwise Operators


&& Logical Operators


% Arithmetic Operators


!! Logical Operators


@ Error Control Operators


?: Ternary Operator


?? Null Coalesce Operator (since PHP 7)


?string ?int ?array ?bool ?float Nullable return type declaration (since PHP 7.1)


: Alternative syntax for control structures, Ternary Operator


:: Scope Resolution Operator


\ Namespaces


-> Classes And Objects


=> Arrays


^ Bitwise Operators


>> Bitwise Operators


<< Bitwise Operators


<<< Heredoc or Nowdoc


= Assignment Operators


== Comparison Operators


=== Comparison Operators


!== Comparison Operators


!= Comparison Operators


<> Comparison Operators


<=> Comparison Operators (since PHP 7.0)


| Bitwise Operators


|| Logical Operators


~ Bitwise Operators


+ Arithmetic Operators, Array Operators


+= and -= Assignment Operators


++ and -- Incrementing/Decrementing Operators


.= Assignment Operators


. String Operators


, Function Arguments

, Variable Declarations


$$ Variable Variables


` Execution Operator


<?= Short Open Tags


[] Arrays (short syntax since PHP 5.4)


<? Opening and Closing tags


... Argument unpacking (since PHP 5.6)


** Exponentiation (since PHP 5.6)


# One-line shell-style comment


:? Nullable return types


18 comments

@John Conde 2019-01-16 12:42:30

Nullable return type declaration

PHP 7 adds support for return type declarations. Similarly to argument type declarations, return type declarations specify the type of value that will be returned from a function. The same types are available for return type declarations as are available for argument type declarations.

Strict typing also has an effect on return type declarations. In the default weak mode, returned values will be coerced to the correct type if they are not already of that type. In strong mode, the returned value must be of the correct type, otherwise, a TypeError will be thrown.

As of PHP 7.1.0, return values can be marked as nullable by prefixing the type name with a question mark (?). This signifies that the function returns either the specified type or NULL.

<?php
function get_item(): ?string {
    if (isset($_GET['item'])) {
        return $_GET['item'];
    } else {
        return null;
    }
}
?>

Source

@rajangupta 2015-10-11 14:15:55

Spaceship Operator <=> (Added in PHP 7)

Examples for <=> Spaceship operator (PHP 7, Source: PHP Manual):

Integers, Floats, Strings, Arrays & objects for Three-way comparison of variables.

// Integers
echo 10 <=> 10; // 0
echo 10 <=> 20; // -1
echo 20 <=> 10; // 1

// Floats
echo 1.5 <=> 1.5; // 0
echo 1.5 <=> 2.5; // -1
echo 2.5 <=> 1.5; // 1

// Strings
echo "a" <=> "a"; // 0
echo "a" <=> "b"; // -1
echo "b" <=> "a"; // 1
// Comparison is case-sensitive
echo "B" <=> "a"; // -1

echo "a" <=> "aa"; // -1
echo "zz" <=> "aa"; // 1

// Arrays
echo [] <=> []; // 0
echo [1, 2, 3] <=> [1, 2, 3]; // 0
echo [1, 2, 3] <=> []; // 1
echo [1, 2, 3] <=> [1, 2, 1]; // 1
echo [1, 2, 3] <=> [1, 2, 4]; // -1

// Objects
$a = (object) ["a" => "b"]; 
$b = (object) ["a" => "b"]; 
echo $a <=> $b; // 0

$a = (object) ["a" => "b"]; 
$b = (object) ["a" => "c"]; 
echo $a <=> $b; // -1

$a = (object) ["a" => "c"]; 
$b = (object) ["a" => "b"]; 
echo $a <=> $b; // 1

// only values are compared
$a = (object) ["a" => "b"]; 
$b = (object) ["b" => "b"]; 
echo $a <=> $b; // 1

@David Archibald 2017-01-11 19:59:47

This is a copy of this answer.

@rajangupta 2017-01-12 07:01:49

@Peter Ajtai 2010-09-17 16:30:03

Incrementing / Decrementing Operators

++ increment operator

-- decrement operator

Example    Name              Effect
---------------------------------------------------------------------
++$a       Pre-increment     Increments $a by one, then returns $a.
$a++       Post-increment    Returns $a, then increments $a by one.
--$a       Pre-decrement     Decrements $a by one, then returns $a.
$a--       Post-decrement    Returns $a, then decrements $a by one.

These can go before or after the variable.

If put before the variable, the increment/decrement operation is done to the variable first then the result is returned. If put after the variable, the variable is first returned, then the increment/decrement operation is done.

For example:

$apples = 10;
for ($i = 0; $i < 10; ++$i) {
    echo 'I have ' . $apples-- . " apples. I just ate one.\n";
}

Live example

In the case above ++$i is used, since it is faster. $i++ would have the same results.

Pre-increment is a little bit faster because it really increments the variable and after that 'returns' the result. Post-increment creates a special variable, copies there the value of the first variable and only after the first variable is used, replaces its value with second's.

However, you must use $apples--, since first, you want to display the current number of apples, and then you want to subtract one from it.

You can also increment letters in PHP:

$i = "a";
while ($i < "c") {
    echo $i++;
}

Once z is reached aa is next, and so on.

Note that character variables can be incremented but not decremented and even so only plain ASCII characters (a-z and A-Z) are supported.


Stack Overflow Posts:

@Mark Baker 2010-09-17 16:33:06

The difference is a lot more than just speed... consider $x = 0; $y = $x++; compared with $x = 0; $y = ++$x; and the value of $y in each case

@NullUserException 2010-09-17 16:33:37

They are also semantically different.

@Peter Ajtai 2010-09-17 17:00:09

@Mark - I was still editing. I edited in an example to show the semantic difference between the two forms.

@Mark Baker 2010-09-17 20:51:09

+1 for the note that decrementers don't work on characters, only on numbers

@Lotus Notes 2010-12-08 23:49:02

For everyone's sake, please remove the bolded information about pre-incrementing being infinitesimally faster. This is the absolute worst example of premature optimization and this kind of information should not be in people's heads if they are just starting to learn PHP.

@Peter Ajtai 2010-12-09 10:47:44

@Lotus - I consider it a fun fact. If you're a beginner to PHP, or C++, etc, it seems pretty wacky that ++i and i++ are different enough to work at different speeds. I found it fascinating.

@Lotus Notes 2010-12-09 17:43:36

@Peter Ajtai Yes, it's interesting, but from the way you've structured your post you make it seem like one of the prime facts of PHP that is absolutely vital to using the language.

@Alex Emilov 2011-08-20 16:31:35

What about: $i *= $factor; ?

@Peter Ajtai 2011-08-20 23:31:18

@Alex - What about it? That's not incrementing or decrementing... it's multiplying ==> codepad.viper-7.com/9hScwJ

@Hitesh 2014-03-07 11:19:39

what is !== means ? ... stackoverflow.com/a/7118928/1877909

@さりげない告白 2015-11-27 12:59:01

Not sure if it is just me or not, but the apple example seems a little misleading. 'I have 10 apples. I just ate one' makes me believe you had 11 apples, but now you have 10 because you just ate one rather than you eating one after saying you have 10, thus making you have 9 -- which is what the code is implying.

@Peter Ajtai 2015-12-02 22:40:40

@雰囲気が読めない人 Yeah it's difficult to capture the concept. Maybe it should be "I have 10 apples. I ate one after I counted them and told you how many I had."

@Ankur Saxena 2012-10-31 12:59:00

Syntax    Name             Description

x == y    Equality         True if x and y have the same key/value pairs
x != y    Inequality       True if x is not equal to y
x === y   Identity         True if x and y have the same key/value pairs
                            in the same order and of the same types
x !== y   Non-identity     True if x is not identical to y
++ x      Pre-increment    Increments x by one, then returns x
x ++      Post-increment   Returns x, then increments x by one
-- x      Pre-decrement    Decrements x by one, then returns x
x --      Post-decrement   Returns x, then decrements x by one
x and y   And              True if both x and y are true x=6 y=3
                           (x < 10 and y > 1) returns true 
x && y    And              True if both x and y are true x=6 y=3
                           (x < 10 && y > 1) returns true
a . b     Concatenation    Concatenate two strings: "Hi" . "Ha"

@Habeeb Perwad 2012-11-29 09:07:06

_ Alias for gettext()

The underscore character '_' as in _() is an alias to the gettext() function.

@Parth Nayak 2017-10-03 13:28:24

== is used for check equality without considering variable data-type

=== is used for check equality for both the variable value* and **data-type

Example

$a = 5

  1. if ($a == 5) - will evaluate to true

  2. if ($a == '5') - will evaluate to true, because while comparing this both value php internally convert that string value into integer and then compare both values

  3. if ($a === 5) - will evaluate to true

  4. if ($a === '5') - will evaluate to false, because value is 5, but this value 5 is not an integer.

@VIPIN A ROY 2016-10-31 13:38:27

Null coalescing operator (??)

This operator has been added in PHP 7.0 for the common case of needing to use a ternary operator in conjunction with isset(). It returns its first operand if it exists and is not NULL; otherwise it returns its second operand.

<?php
// Fetches the value of $_GET['user'] and returns 'nobody'
// if it does not exist.
$username = $_GET['user'] ?? 'nobody';
// This is equivalent to:
$username = isset($_GET['user']) ? $_GET['user'] : 'nobody';

// Coalescing can be chained: this will return the first
// defined value out of $_GET['user'], $_POST['user'], and
// 'nobody'.
$username = $_GET['user'] ?? $_POST['user'] ?? 'nobody';
?>

@John Slegers 2016-01-18 06:13:25

An overview of operators in PHP:


Logical Operators:

  • $a && $b : TRUE if both $a and $b are TRUE.
  • $a || $b : TRUE if either $a or $b is TRUE.
  • $a xor $b : TRUE if either $a or $b is TRUE, but not both.
  • ! $a : TRUE if $a is not TRUE.
  • $a and $b : TRUE if both $a and $b are TRUE.
  • $a or $b : TRUE if either $a or $b is TRUE.

Comparison operators:

  • $a == $b : TRUE if $a is equal to $b after type juggling.
  • $a === $b : TRUE if $a is equal to $b, and they are of the same type.
  • $a != $b : TRUE if $a is not equal to $b after type juggling.
  • $a <> $b : TRUE if $a is not equal to $b after type juggling.
  • $a !== $b : TRUE if $a is not equal to $b, or they are not of the same type.
  • $a < $b : TRUE if $a is strictly less than $b.
  • $a > $b : TRUE if $a is strictly greater than $b.
  • $a <= $b : TRUE if $a is less than or equal to $b.
  • $a >= $b : TRUE if $a is greater than or equal to $b.
  • $a <=> $b : An integer less than, equal to, or greater than zero when $a is respectively less than, equal to, or greater than $b. Available as of PHP 7.
  • $a ? $b : $c : if $a return $b else return $c (ternary operator)
  • $a ?? $c : Same as $a ? $a : $c (null coalescing operator - requires PHP>=7)

Arithmetic Operators:

  • -$a : Opposite of $a.
  • $a + $b : Sum of $a and $b.
  • $a - $b : Difference of $a and $b.
  • $a * $b : Product of $a and $b.
  • $a / $b : Quotient of $a and $b.
  • $a % $b : Remainder of $a divided by $b.
  • $a ** $b : Result of raising $a to the $b'th power (introduced in PHP 5.6)

Incrementing/Decrementing Operators:

  • ++$a : Increments $a by one, then returns $a.
  • $a++ : Returns $a, then increments $a by one.
  • --$a : Decrements $a by one, then returns $a.
  • $a-- : Returns $a, then decrements $a by one.

Bitwise Operators:

  • $a & $b : Bits that are set in both $a and $b are set.
  • $a | $b : Bits that are set in either $a or $b are set.
  • $a ^ $b : Bits that are set in $a or $b but not both are set.
  • ~ $a : Bits that are set in $a are not set, and vice versa.
  • $a << $b : Shift the bits of $a $b steps to the left (each step means "multiply by two")
  • $a >> $b : Shift the bits of $a $b steps to the right (each step means "divide by two")

String Operators:

  • $a . $b : Concatenation of $a and $b.

Array Operators:

  • $a + $b : Union of $a and $b.
  • $a == $b : TRUE if $a and $b have the same key/value pairs.
  • $a === $b : TRUE if $a and $b have the same key/value pairs in the same order and of the same types.
  • $a != $b : TRUE if $a is not equal to $b.
  • $a <> $b : TRUE if $a is not equal to $b.
  • $a !== $b : TRUE if $a is not identical to $b.

Assignment Operators:

  • $a = $b : The value of $b is assigned to $a
  • $a += $b : Same as $a = $a + $b
  • $a -= $b : Same as $a = $a - $b
  • $a *= $b : Same as $a = $a * $b
  • $a /= $b : Same as $a = $a / $b
  • $a %= $b : Same as $a = $a % $b
  • $a **= $b : Same as $a = $a ** $b
  • $a .= $b : Same as $a = $a . $b
  • $a &= $b : Same as $a = $a & $b
  • $a |= $b : Same as $a = $a | $b
  • $a ^= $b : Same as $a = $a ^ $b
  • $a <<= $b : Same as $a = $a << $b
  • $a >>= $b : Same as $a = $a >> $b

Note

and operator and or operator have lower precedence than assignment operator =.

This means that $a = true and false; is equivalent to ($a = true) and false.

In most cases you will probably want to use && and ||, which behave in a way known from languages like C, Java or JavaScript.

@Yogi Ghorecha 2017-12-06 16:05:51

Null Coalesce operator "??" (Added in PHP 7)

Not the catchiest name for an operator, but PHP 7 brings in the rather handy null coalesce so I thought I'd share an example.

In PHP 5, we already have a ternary operator, which tests a value, and then returns the second element if that returns true and the third if it doesn't:

echo $count ? $count : 10; // outputs 10

There is also a shorthand for that which allows you to skip the second element if it's the same as the first one: echo $count ?: 10; // also outputs 10

In PHP 7 we additionally get the ?? operator which rather than indicating extreme confusion which is how I would usually use two question marks together instead allows us to chain together a string of values. Reading from left to right, the first value which exists and is not null is the value that will be returned.

// $a is not set
$b = 16;

echo $a ?? 2; // outputs 2
echo $a ?? $b ?? 7; // outputs 16

This construct is useful for giving priority to one or more values coming perhaps from user input or existing configuration, and safely falling back on a given default if that configuration is missing. It's kind of a small feature but it's one that I know I'll be using as soon as my applications upgrade to PHP 7.

@Webeng 2016-06-12 11:07:19

QUESTION:

What does => mean?


ANSWER:

=> Is the symbol we humans decided to use to separate "Key" => "Value" pairs in Associative Arrays.

ELABORATING:

To understand this, we have to know what Associative Arrays are. The first thing that comes up when a conventional programmer thinks of an array (in PHP) would be something similar to:

$myArray1 = array(2016, "hello", 33);//option 1

$myArray2 = [2016, "hello", 33];//option 2

$myArray3 = [];//option 3
$myArray3[] = 2016; 
$myArray3[] = "hello"; 
$myArray3[] = 33;

Where as, if we wanted to call the array in some later part of the code, we could do:

echo $myArray1[1];// output: hello
echo $myArray2[1];// output: hello
echo $myArray3[1];// output: hello

So far so good. However, as humans, we might find it hard to remember that index [0] of the array is the value of the year 2016, index [1] of the array is a greetings, and index [2] of the array is a simple integer value. The alternative we would then have is to use what is called an Associative Array. An Associative array has a few differences from a Sequential Array (which is what the previous cases were since they increment the index used in a predetermined sequence, by incrementing by 1 for each following value).

Differences (between a sequential and associative array):

  • Durring the declaration of an Associative Array, you don't only include the value of what you want to put in the array, but you also put the index value (called the key) which you want to use when calling the array in later parts of the code. The following syntax is used during it's declaration: "key" => "value".

  • When using the Associative Array, the key value would then be placed inside the index of the array to retrieve the desired value.

For instance:

    $myArray1 = array( 
        "Year" => 2016, 
        "Greetings" => "hello", 
        "Integer_value" => 33);//option 1

    $myArray2 = [ 
        "Year" =>  2016, 
        "Greetings" => "hello", 
        "Integer_value" => 33];//option 2

    $myArray3 = [];//option 3
    $myArray3["Year"] = 2016; 
    $myArray3["Greetings"] = "hello"; 
    $myArray3["Integer_value"] = 33;

And now, to receive the same output as before, the key value would be used in the arrays index:

echo $myArray1["Greetings"];// output: hello
echo $myArray2["Greetings"];// output: hello
echo $myArray3["Greetings"];// output: hello

FINAL POINT:

So from the above example, it is pretty easy to see that the => symbol is used to express the relationship of an Associative Array between each of the key and value pairs in an array DURING the initiation of the values within the array.

@mshomali 2017-07-02 07:55:53

Null Coalesce Operator php

The null coalescing operator (??) has been added to PHP7 for the common case of needing to use a ternary in conjunction with isset(). It returns its first operand if it exists and is not NULL otherwise it returns its second operand, such as following example:

$username = $_GET['user'] ?? 'nobody';
// This is equivalent to:
$username = isset($_GET['user']) ? $_GET['user'] : 'nobody'; 

@Pang 2018-11-16 07:40:16

This looks like a repeat of this existing answer.

@dev.meghraj 2017-03-18 06:05:10

Question:

What does "&" mean here in PHP?

PHP "&" operator

Makes life more easier once we get used to it..(check example below carefully)

& usually checks bits that are set in both $a and $b are set.

have you even noticed how these calls works?

   error_reporting(E_ERROR | E_WARNING | E_PARSE);
    error_reporting(E_ERROR | E_WARNING | E_PARSE | E_NOTICE);
    error_reporting(E_ALL & ~E_NOTICE);
    error_reporting(E_ALL);

So behind all above is game of bitwise operator and bits.

One usefull case of these is easy configurations like give below, so a single integer field can store thousands of combos for you.

Most people have already read the docs but didn't reliase the real world use case of these bitwise operators.

Example That you 'll love

<?php

class Config {

    // our constants must be 1,2,4,8,16,32,64 ....so on
    const TYPE_CAT=1;
    const TYPE_DOG=2;
    const TYPE_LION=4;
    const TYPE_RAT=8;
    const TYPE_BIRD=16;
    const TYPE_ALL=31;

    private $config;

    public function __construct($config){
        $this->config=$config;

        if($this->is(Config::TYPE_CAT)){
            echo 'cat ';
        }
        if($this->is(Config::TYPE_DOG)){
            echo 'dog ';
        }
        if($this->is(Config::TYPE_RAT)){
            echo 'rat ';
        }
        if($this->is(Config::TYPE_LION)){
            echo 'lion ';
        }
        if($this->is(Config::TYPE_BIRD)){
            echo 'bird ';
        }
        echo "\n";
    }

    private function is($value){
        return $this->config & $value;
    }
}

new Config(Config::TYPE_ALL);
// cat dog rat lion bird
new Config(Config::TYPE_BIRD);
//bird
new Config(Config::TYPE_BIRD | Config::TYPE_DOG);
//dog bird
new Config(Config::TYPE_ALL & ~Config::TYPE_DOG & ~Config::TYPE_CAT);
//rat lion bird

@Ankur Saxena 2012-10-31 13:28:45

Bitwise Operator

What is a bit? A bit is a representation of 1 or 0. Basically OFF(0) and ON(1)

What is a byte? A byte is made up of 8 bits and the highest value of a byte is 255, which would mean every bit is set. We will look at why a byte's maximum value is 255.

-------------------------------------------
|      1 Byte ( 8 bits )                  |
-------------------------------------------
|Place Value | 128| 64| 32| 16| 8| 4| 2| 1|     
-------------------------------------------

This representation of 1 Byte

1 + 2 + 4 + 8 + 16 + 32 + 64 + 128 = 255 (1 Byte)

A few examples for better understanding

The "AND" operator: &

$a =  9;
$b = 10;
echo $a & $b;

This would output the number 8. Why? Well let's see using our table example.

-------------------------------------------
|      1 Byte ( 8 bits )                  |
-------------------------------------------
|Place Value | 128| 64| 32| 16| 8| 4| 2| 1|     
-------------------------------------------
|      $a    |   0|  0|  0|  0| 1| 0| 0| 1|    
-------------------------------------------
|      $b    |   0|  0|  0|  0| 1| 0| 1| 0|
------------------------------------------- 
|      &     |   0|  0|  0|  0| 1| 0| 0| 0|
------------------------------------------- 

So you can see from the table the only bit they share together is the 8 bit.

Second example

$a =  36;
$b = 103;
echo $a & $b; // This would output the number 36.
$a = 00100100
$b = 01100111

The two shared bits are 32 and 4, which when added together return 36.

The "Or" operator: |

$a =  9;
$b = 10;
echo $a | $b;

This would output the number 11. Why?

-------------------------------------------
|      1 Byte ( 8 bits )                  |
-------------------------------------------
|Place Value | 128| 64| 32| 16| 8| 4| 2| 1|     
-------------------------------------------
|      $a    |   0|  0|  0|  0| 1| 0| 0| 1|    
-------------------------------------------
|      $b    |   0|  0|  0|  0| 1| 0| 1| 0|
------------------------------------------- 
|      |     |   0|  0|  0|  0| 1| 0| 1| 1|
-------------------------------------------

You will notice that we have 3 bits set, in the 8, 2, and 1 columns. Add those up: 8+2+1=11.

@Aycan Yaşıt 2013-09-28 09:35:46

What if $a takes a value greater than 255?

@AlbertSamuel 2016-05-17 03:42:53

@AycanYaşıt Most of the operating system is using 32 bit and 64 bit system, that means the limit is much more than 255 (8 bits).

@Kaii 2018-04-16 21:53:21

@AycanYaşıt Actually, the representation here with one byte length isn't even correct, as even the smallest integer is still 64 bit (8 byte) in memory on a modern 64bit platform.

@Viren Panchal 2019-02-13 21:47:40

Why and & is 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 and or | is 0 0 0 0 1 0 1 1?

@Maulik patel 2013-10-31 05:48:22

Type Operators

instanceof is used to determine whether a PHP variable is an instantiated object of a certain class.

<?php
class mclass { }
class sclass { }
$a = new mclass;
var_dump($a instanceof mclass);
var_dump($a instanceof sclass);

The above example will output:

bool(true)
bool(false)

Reason: Above Example $a is a object of the mclass so use only a mclass data not instance of with the sclass

Example with inheritance

<?php 
class pclass { } 
class childclass extends pclass { } 
$a = new childclass; 
var_dump($a instanceof childclass); 
var_dump($a instanceof pclass);

The above example will output:

bool(true)
bool(true)

Example with Clone

<?php 
class cloneable { } 
$a = new cloneable;
$b = clone $a; 
var_dump($a instanceof cloneable); 
var_dump($b instanceof cloneable);

The above example will output:

bool(true)
bool(true)

@Ryan Vincent 2014-02-24 11:38:28

The above works with 'interfaces' as well. This is useful for checking that a particular interface is available.

@devpro 2015-12-17 07:41:20

PHP Strings: PHP Strings can be specified in four ways not just two ways:

1) Single Quote Strings:

$string = 'This is my string'; // print This is my string

2) Double Quote Strings:

$str = 'string';

$string = "This is my $str"; // print This is my string

3) Heredoc:

$string = <<<EOD
This is my string
EOD; // print This is my string

4) Nowdoc (since PHP 5.3.0):

$string = <<<'END_OF_STRING'
    This is my string 
END_OF_STRING; // print This is my string

@Rizier123 2016-01-13 14:24:18

@PHPFan 2017-11-26 03:48:16

@Rizier123 : What does mean by "Heredocs can not be used for initializing class properties. Since PHP 5.3, this limitation is valid only for heredocs containing variables."?

@Sherif 2015-07-08 16:44:43

<=> Spaceship Operator

Added in PHP 7

The spaceship operator <=> is the latest comparison operator added in PHP 7. It is a non-associative binary operator with the same precedence as equality operators (==, !=, ===, !==). This operator allows for simpler three-way comparison between left-hand and right-hand operands.

The operator results in an integer expression of:

  • 0 when both operands are equal
  • Less than 0 when the left-hand operand is less than the right-hand operand
  • Greater than 0 when the left-hand operand is greater than the right-hand operand

e.g.

1 <=> 1; // 0
1 <=> 2; // -1
2 <=> 1; // 1

A good practical application of using this operator would be in comparison type callbacks that are expected to return a zero, negative, or positive integer based on a three-way comparison between two values. The comparison function passed to usort is one such example.

Before PHP 7 you would write...

$arr = [4,2,1,3];

usort($arr, function ($a, $b) {
    if ($a < $b) {
        return -1;
    } elseif ($a > $b) {
        return 1;
    } else {
        return 0;
    }
});

Since PHP 7 you can write...

$arr = [4,2,1,3];

usort($arr, function ($a, $b) {
    return $a <=> $b;
});

@rev 2015-08-28 17:37:12

Not sure how $a <=> $b is different to $a - $b

@mcrumley 2015-09-25 18:29:36

@AcidShout $a - $b works for numbers, but not strings, objects, or arrays.

@Mark Amery 2015-11-05 15:54:44

@mcrumley No, it's worse than that. In general $a - $b doesn't even work for numbers; it works only for integers. It doesn't work for non-integer numbers, because usort casts your comparator function's return values to int, which means 0.5 gets cast to 0, which means that two numbers with a difference of less than 1, such as 4 and 4.6, may (depending upon which one gets passed as the first argument to your comparator function) incorrectly compare as equal.

@Mark Amery 2016-01-15 00:13:25

Sherif, why state that the operator returns "less than 0", 0 or "more than 0" rather than simply stating that it returns 1, 0, or -1? The latter is both more precise and more succinct; I don't understand why you reverted that detail of my edit.

@Alma Do 2016-01-15 13:04:29

Btw, prior to PHP7 there's still a way to avoid if-else block that works not only with numbers: return $a < $b ? -1 : $a != $b;

@Sherif 2016-01-19 21:38:05

@MarkAmery Because that is the documented behavior.

@Mark Amery 2016-01-20 18:54:09

@Sherif php.net/manual/en/migration70.new-features.php documents it as 1 / 0 / -1, not to mention that the original RFC did likewise. I think that's sufficient documentation to justify including the same detail here, and have rolled back for now; feel free to rollback and continue this argument if you still disagree.

@Sherif 2016-01-20 22:45:28

@MarkAmery the migration guide isn't the documented behavior of the operator. For that you want to look at the language operators section of the manual for that php.net/language.operators.comparison the actual behavior behind this relies on various comparison functions of the API, like when you're doing strcmp for strings, where you can not guarantee the actual return value in every single case. Sure, it's almost always 1, 0, or -1, but for the cases where you can't guarantee it like in wrapping libc's strcmp, you offer up the same defined behavior as the underlying spec to be safe

@Sherif 2016-01-20 22:50:30

@MarkAmery The point here is not to allow people to rely on undefined behavior. For the one case where someones gets a value that is not exactly 1, 0, or -1, you get someone filing a bug report thinking there's something wrong in the language. Which is why we document that all we can guarantee is that value will be less than, greater than, or equal to 0, and not necessarily 1, 0, and -1.

@mnv 2015-11-23 20:27:19

{} Curly braces

And some words about last post

$x[4] = 'd'; // it works
$x{4} = 'd'; // it works

$echo $x[4]; // it works
$echo $x{4}; // it works

$x[] = 'e'; // it works
$x{} = 'e'; // does not work

$x = [1, 2]; // it works
$x = {1, 2}; // does not work

echo "${x[4]}"; // it works
echo "${x{4}}"; // does not work

echo "{$x[4]}"; // it works
echo "{$x{4}}"; // it works

@Andrei 2017-09-05 12:15:04

{''} notation for property names. echo $movies->movie->{'great-lines'}->line; can be used to access data in SimpleXMLElement. Maybe it can be used in other cases too. php.net/manual/en/simplexml.examples-basic.php

@Sumoanand 2013-04-24 04:43:16

Magic constants: Although these are not just symbols but important part of this token family. There are eight magical constants that change depending on where they are used.

__LINE__: The current line number of the file.

__FILE__: The full path and filename of the file. If used inside an include, the name of the included file is returned. Since PHP 4.0.2, __FILE__ always contains an absolute path with symlinks resolved whereas in older versions it contained relative path under some circumstances.

__DIR__: The directory of the file. If used inside an include, the directory of the included file is returned. This is equivalent to dirname(__FILE__). This directory name does not have a trailing slash unless it is the root directory. (Added in PHP 5.3.0.)

__FUNCTION__: The function name. (Added in PHP 4.3.0) As of PHP 5 this constant returns the function name as it was declared (case-sensitive). In PHP 4 its value is always lowercased.

__CLASS__: The class name. (Added in PHP 4.3.0) As of PHP 5 this constant returns the class name as it was declared (case-sensitive). In PHP 4 its value is always lowercased. The class name includes the namespace it was declared in (e.g. Foo\Bar). Note that as of PHP 5.4 __CLASS__ works also in traits. When used in a trait method, __CLASS__ is the name of the class the trait is used in.

__TRAIT__: The trait name. (Added in PHP 5.4.0) As of PHP 5.4 this constant returns the trait as it was declared (case-sensitive). The trait name includes the namespace it was declared in (e.g. Foo\Bar).

__METHOD__: The class method name. (Added in PHP 5.0.0) The method name is returned as it was declared (case-sensitive).

__NAMESPACE__: The name of the current namespace (case-sensitive). This constant is defined in compile-time (Added in PHP 5.3.0).

Source

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