PHP is a server-side scripting language designed for web development but also used as a general-purpose programming language. PHP is now installed on more than 244 million websites and 2.1 million web servers. Originally created by Rasmus Lerdorf in 1995, the reference implementation of PHP is now produced by The PHP Group. While PHP originally stood for Personal Home Page, it now stands for PHP: Hypertext Preprocessor, a recursive acronym.

PHP code is interpreted by a web server with a PHP processor module, which generates the resulting web page: PHP commands can be embedded directly into an HTML source document rather than calling an external file to process data. It has also evolved to include a command-line interface capability and can be used in standalone graphical applications.

PHP is free software released under the PHP License, which is incompatible with the GNU General Public License (GPL) due to restrictions on the usage of the term PHP. PHP can be deployed on most web servers and also as a standalone shell on almost every operating system and platform, free of charge.


The following Hello world program is written in PHP code embedded in an HTML document:

<!DOCTYPE html>
<meta charset="utf-8">
<title>PHP Test</title>
 echo 'Hello World';

However as PHP does not need to be embedded in HTML, or used with a web server, the simplest version of a Hello World program can be written like this:

<?= 'Hello world';

The PHP interpreter only executes PHP code within its delimiters. Anything outside its delimiters is not processed by PHP (although non-PHP text is still subject to control structures described in PHP code). The most common delimiters are <?phpto open and ?>to close PHP sections. <script language="php">and </script>delimiters are also available, as are the shortened forms <?or <?=(which is used to echo back a string or variable) and ?>as well as ASP-style short forms <%or <%=and %>. While short delimiters are used, they make script files less portable as support for them can be disabled in the PHP configuration, and so they are discouraged. The purpose of all these delimiters is to separate PHP code from non-PHP code, including HTML.

The first form of delimiters, <?phpand?>, in XHTML and other XML documents, creates correctly formed XML "processing instructions".[39] This means that the resulting mixture of PHP code and other markup in the server-side file is itself well-formed XML.

Variables are prefixed with a dollar symbol, and a type does not need to be specified in advance. Unlike function and class names, variable names are case sensitive. Both double-quoted ("") and heredoc strings provide the ability to interpolate a variable's value into the string. PHP treats newlines as whitespace in the manner of a free-form language (except when inside string quotes), and statements are terminated by a semicolon. PHP has three types of comment syntax: /* */marks block and inline comments; //as well as #are used for one-line comments. The echo statement is one of several facilities PHP provides to output text, e.g., to a web browser.

In terms of keywords and language syntax, PHP is similar to most high level languages that follow the C style syntax. ifconditions, forand whileloops, and function returns are similar in syntax to languages such as C, C++, C#, Java and Perl.

Data types

PHP stores whole numbers in a platform-dependent range, either a 64-bit or 32-bit signed integer equivalent to the C-language long type. Unsigned integers are converted to signed values in certain situations; this behavior is different from other programming languages. Integer variables can be assigned using decimal (positive and negative), octal, hexadecimal, and binary notations. Floating point numbers are also stored in a platform-specific range. They can be specified using floating point notation, or two forms of scientific notation. PHP has a native Boolean type that is similar to the native Boolean types in Java and C++. Using the Boolean type conversion rules, non-zero values are interpreted as true and zero as false, as in Perl and C++. The null data type represents a variable that has no value. The only value in the null data type is NULL. Variables of the "resource" type represent references to resources from external sources. These are typically created by functions from a particular extension, and can only be processed by functions from the same extension; examples include file, image, and database resources. Arrays can contain elements of any type that PHP can handle, including resources, objects, and even other arrays. Order is preserved in lists of values and in hashes with both keys and values, and the two can be intermingled. PHP also supports strings, which can be used with single quotes, double quotes, nowdoc or heredoc syntax.

The Standard PHP Library (SPL) attempts to solve standard problems and implements efficient data access interfaces and classes.


PHP has hundreds of base functions and thousands more via extensions. These functions are well documented on the PHP site; however, the built-in library has a wide variety of naming conventions and inconsistencies. PHP currently has no functions for thread programming, although it does support multi process programming on POSIX systems.

Additional functions can be defined by a developer:

function myFunction() { // declares a function, this is named myFunction
 return 'John Doe'; // returns the value 'John Doe'
echo 'My name is ' . myFunction() . '!'; //outputs the text concatenated
with the return value of myFunction.
// myFunction is called as a result of this syntax.
// The result of the output will be 'My name is John Doe!'

In PHP 5.2 and earlier, functions are not first-class functions and can only be referenced by their name, directly or dynamically by a variable containing the name of the function. User-defined functions can be created at any time without being prototyped. Functions can be defined inside code blocks, permitting a run-time decision as to whether or not a function should be defined. Function calls must use parentheses, with the exception of zero argument class constructor functions called with the PHP newoperator, where parentheses are optional. PHP supports quasi-anonymous functions through the create_function()function, although they are not true anonymous functions because anonymous functions are nameless, but functions can only be referenced by name, or indirectly through a variable $function_name();, in PHP.

PHP gained support for closures in PHP 5.3. True anonymous functions are supported using the following syntax:

function getAdder($x) {
 return function($y) use ($x) {
  return $x + $y;
$adder = getAdder(8);
echo $adder(2); // prints "10"

Here, the getAdder()function creates a closure using the parameter $x(the keyword useimports a variable from the lexical context), which takes an additional argument $yand returns it to the caller. Such a function is a first class object, meaning that it can be stored in a variable, passed as a parameter to other functions, etc. For more details see Lambda functions and closures RFC.

The goto flow control statement is used as follows:

function lock() {
 $file = fopen('file.txt', 'r+');
 if (!flock($file, LOCK_EX | LOCK_NB)) {
  goto retry;
 fwrite($file, 'Success!');

When flock()is called, PHP opens a file and tries to lock it. The target label retry:defines the point to which execution should return if flock()is unsuccessful and goto retry;is called. The gotostatement is restricted and requires that the target label be in the same file and context.

The gotostatement has been supported since PHP 5.3.

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