PHP Functions

PHP is a widely-used, open-source programming language that is particularly suited for web development and can be embedded into HTML.

One of the key features of PHP is its support for functions.

We will explore what functions are in PHP, how they are defined and used, and some best practices for working with them.

What are PHP Functions?

In PHP, a function is a block of code that can be executed multiple times within a program.

Functions are a way to organize and reuse code, making it easier to write and maintain large, complex programs.

Functions can take input in the form of parameters and can return a value.

Defining PHP Functions

Functions in PHP are defined using the function keyword, followed by the function name, a set of parentheses (), and a set of curly braces {} that contain the code to be executed when the function is called.

The general syntax for defining a function in PHP is as follows:

function functionName($parameter1, $parameter2, ...) {
  // code to be executed

For example, the following function takes two parameters, $a and $b, and returns their sum:

function add($a, $b) {
  return $a + $b;

Calling PHP Functions

Once a function has been defined, it can be called by using its name followed by a set of parentheses that contain any required parameters.

The general syntax for calling a function in PHP is as follows:

functionName($parameter1, $parameter2, ...);

For example, the following code calls the add function defined above, passing in the values 3 and 4 as parameters:

$result = add(3, 4);
echo $result; // Output: 7

Function Scope

In PHP, variables defined within a function are only accessible within the function, and are not accessible outside of it.

This is known as the function's scope. Variables defined outside of a function, however, are accessible within the function.

For example, in the following code the variable $x is defined outside of the function and is accessible within the function, while the variable $y is defined within the function and is not accessible outside of it:

$x = 5;

function example() {
  global $x;
  $y = 10;
  echo $x; // Output: 5
  echo $y; // Output: 10

echo $y; // Output: Error: y not defined

Default Values for Parameters

PHP allows you to specify default values for function parameters.

This means that if a value is not passed for that parameter when the function is called, the default value will be used instead.

The default value is specified using the assignment operator = when the function is defined.

For example, the following function has a default value of 10 for the $b parameter:

function add($a, $b = 10) {
  return $a + $b;

The following code calls the add function, passing a value of 5 for the $a parameter but not passing a value for the $b parameter, so the default value of 10 is used:

$result = add(5);
echo $result; // Output: 15

Returning Values from Functions

Functions in PHP can return a value using the return statement.

The value that is returned can be used in the code that calls the function.

For example, the add function defined earlier returns the sum of its two parameters:

function add($a, $b) {
  return $a + $b;

This value can then be stored in a variable and used in other parts of the program, like this:

$result = add(3, 4);
echo $result; // Output: 7

It's worth noting that if a function does not have a return statement or if it has a return statement without a value, it returns NULL by default.

Passing Functions as Parameters

In PHP, it is also possible to pass a function as a parameter to another function.

This can be useful for creating more flexible and reusable code.

For example, the following function takes two parameters, an array and a function, and applies the function to each element of the array:

function array_map($array, $function) {
  for ($i = 0; $i < count($array); $i++) {
    $array[$i] = $function($array[$i]);
  return $array;

This function can be used to square the elements of an array, like this:

$numbers = array(1, 2, 3, 4, 5);
$squared = array_map($numbers, function($x) { return $x * $x; });
print_r($squared); // Output: Array ( [0] => 1 [1] => 4 [2] => 9 [3] => 16 [4] => 25 )

Recursive Functions

A recursive function is a function that calls itself.

This can be a powerful tool for solving problems that can be broken down into smaller, similar problems.

For example, the following function calculates the factorial of a number:

function factorial($x) {
  if ($x === 0) {
    return 1;
  } else {
    return $x * factorial($x - 1);

This function calls itself with a smaller argument, until it reaches the base case of 0, at which point it returns the result.

This function can be called like this:

$result = factorial(5);
echo $result; // Output: 120


Functions are a fundamental concept in PHP programming, providing a way to organize and reuse code.

They can take input in the form of parameters, return a value, have a scope, have default values, passed as parameters and can be recursive.

Understanding how to use functions effectively is essential for writing clean, maintainable, and efficient code in PHP.

PHP Basics