Arrays in PHP

Arrays are collections of related values, such as the data submitted from a form, the names of students in a class, or the populations of a list of cities. In the previous chapter, you learned that a variable is a named container that holds a value. An array is a container that holds multiple values, each distinct from the rest.


An array is made up of elements. Each element has a key and a value. In other words, an array in PHP is actually an ordered map. A map is a type that maps values to keys. This type is optimized in several ways, so you can use it as a real array, or a list (vector), hash-table (which is an implementation of a map), dictionary, collection, stack, queue and probably more. Because you can have another PHP array as a value, you can also quite easily simulate trees.


An array can be created by the array() language-construct. It takes a certain number of comma-separated key => value pairs.

array( [key =>] value
     , ...
// key may be an integer or string
// value may be any value
$arr = array("foo" => "bar", 12 => true);
echo $arr["foo"]; // bar
echo $arr[12]; // 1

A key may be either an integer or a string. If a key is the standard representation of an integer, it will be interpreted as such (i.e., “8” will be interpreted as 8, while “08” will be interpreted as “08”). There are no different indexed and associative array types in PHP; there is only one array type, which can both contain integer and string indices.

A value can be of any PHP type.

$arr = array("somearray" => array(6 => 5, 13 => 9, "a" => 42));
echo $arr["somearray"][6]; // 5
echo $arr["somearray"][13]; // 9
echo $arr["somearray"]["a"]; // 42

If you do not specify a key for a given value, then the maximum of the integer indices is taken, and the new key will be that maximum value + 1. If you specify a key that already has a value assigned to it, that value will be overwritten.

// This array is the same as ...
array(5 => 43, 32, 56, "b" => 12);
// ...this array
array(5 => 43, 6 => 32, 7 => 56, "b" => 12);

Using TRUE as a key will evaluate to integer 1 as key. Using FALSE as a key will evaluate to integer 0 as key. Using NULL as a key will evaluate to the empty string. Using the empty string as key will create (or overwrite) a key with the empty string and its value; it is not the same as using empty brackets. You cannot use arrays or objects as keys. Doing so will result in a warning: Illegal offset type.

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