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Type Juggling

PHP does not require (or support) explicit type definition in variable declaration; a variable's type is determined by the context in which that variable is used. That is to say, if you assign a string value to variable $var, $var becomes a string. If you then assign an integer value to $var, it becomes an integer.

An example of PHP's automatic type conversion is the addition operator '+'. If any of the operands is a float, then all operands are evaluated as floats, and the result will be a float. Otherwise, the operands will be interpreted as integers, and the result will also be an integer. Note that this does NOT change the types of the operands themselves; the only change is in how the operands are evaluated.

= "0";  // $foo is string (ASCII 48)
$foo += 2;   // $foo is now an integer (2)
$foo = $foo + 1.3;  // $foo is now a float (3.3)
$foo = 5 + "10 Little Piggies"; // $foo is integer (15)
$foo = 5 + "10 Small Pigs";     // $foo is integer (15)

If the last two examples above seem odd, see String conversion to numbers.

If you wish to force a variable to be evaluated as a certain type, see the section on Type casting. If you wish to change the type of a variable, see settype().

If you would like to test any of the examples in this section, you can use the var_dump() function.


The behaviour of an automatic conversion to array is currently undefined.

Also, because PHP supports indexing into strings via offsets using the same syntax as array indexing, the following example holds true for all PHP versions:

= 'car'; // $a is a string
$a[0] = 'b';   // $a is still a string
echo $a;       // bar

See the section titled String access by character for more information.

Type Casting

Type casting in PHP works much as it does in C: the name of the desired type is written in parentheses before the variable which is to be cast.

= 10;   // $foo is an integer
$bar = (boolean) $foo;   // $bar is a boolean

The casts allowed are:

  • (int), (integer) - cast to integer
  • (bool), (boolean) - cast to boolean
  • (float), (double), (real) - cast to float
  • (string) - cast to string
  • (binary) - cast to binary string (PHP 6)
  • (array) - cast to array
  • (object) - cast to object

(binary) casting and b prefix forward support was added in PHP 5.2.1

Note that tabs and spaces are allowed inside the parentheses, so the following are functionally equivalent:

= (int) $bar;
$foo = ( int ) $bar;

Casting a literal strings and variables to binary strings:

= (binary)$string;
$binary = b"binary string";

Instead of casting a variable to string, you can also enclose the variable in double quotes.

= 10;            // $foo is an integer
$str = "$foo";        // $str is a string
$fst = (string) $foo; // $fst is also a string

// This prints out that "they are the same"
if ($fst === $str) {
"they are the same";

It may not be obvious exactly what will happen when casting between certain types. For more info, see these sections: