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PHP Array iteration

From WikiOD

Syntax[edit | edit source]

  • for ($i = 0; $i < count($array); $i++) { incremental_iteration(); }
  • for ($i = count($array) - 1; $i >= 0; $i--) { reverse_iteration(); }
  • foreach ($data as $datum) { }
  • foreach ($data as $key => $datum) { }
  • foreach ($data as &$datum) { }

Remarks[edit | edit source]

Comparison of methods to iterate an array[edit | edit source]

Method Advantage
foreach The simplest method to iterate an array.
foreach by reference Simple method to iterate and change elements of an array.
for with incremental index Allows iterating the array in a free sequence, e.g. skipping or reversing multiple elements
Internal array pointers It is no longer necessary to use a loop (so that it can iterate once every function call, signal receive, etc.)

Iterating multiple arrays together[edit | edit source]

Sometimes two arrays of the same length need to be iterated together, for example:

$people = ['Tim', 'Tony', 'Turanga'];
$foods = ['chicken', 'beef', 'slurm'];

array_map is the simplest way to accomplish this:

array_map(function($person, $food) {
    return "$person likes $food\n";
}, $people, $foods);

which will output:

Tim likes chicken
Tony likes beef
Turanga likes slurm

This can be done through a common index:

assert(count($people) === count($foods));
for ($i = 0; $i < count($people); $i++) {
    echo "$people[$i] likes $foods[$i]\n";

If the two arrays don't have the incremental keys, array_values($array)[$i] can be used to replace $array[$i].

If both arrays have the same order of keys, you can also use a foreach-with-key loop on one of the arrays:

foreach ($people as $index => $person) {
    $food = $foods[$index];
    echo "$person likes $food\n";

Separate arrays can only be looped through if they are the same length and also have the same key name. This means if you don't supply a key and they are numbered, you will be fine, or if you name the keys and put them in the same order in each array.

You can also use array_combine.

$combinedArray = array_combine($people, $foods);
// $combinedArray = ['Tim' => 'chicken', 'Tony' => 'beef', 'Turanga' => 'slurm'];

Then you can loop through this by doing the same as before:

foreach ($combinedArray as $person => $meal) {
    echo "$person likes $meal\n";

Using an incremental index[edit | edit source]

This method works by incrementing an integer from 0 to the greatest index in the array.

$colors = ['red', 'yellow', 'blue', 'green'];
for ($i = 0; $i < count($colors); $i++) {
    echo 'I am the color ' . $colors[$i] . '<br>';

This also allows iterating an array in reverse order without using array_reverse, which may result in overhead if the array is large.

$colors = ['red', 'yellow', 'blue', 'green'];
for ($i = count($colors) - 1; $i >= 0; $i--) {
    echo 'I am the color ' . $colors[$i] . '<br>';

You can skip or rewind the index easily using this method.

$array = ["alpha", "beta", "gamma", "delta", "epsilon"];
for ($i = 0; $i < count($array); $i++) {
    echo $array[$i], PHP_EOL;
    if ($array[$i] === "gamma") {
        $array[$i] = "zeta";
        $i -= 2;
    } elseif ($array[$i] === "zeta") {



For arrays that do not have incremental indices (including arrays with indices in reverse order, e.g. [1 => "foo", 0 => "bar"], ["foo" => "f", "bar" => "b"]), this cannot be done directly. array_values or array_keys can be used instead:

$array = ["a" => "alpha", "b" => "beta", "c" => "gamma", "d" => "delta"];
$keys = array_keys($array);
for ($i = 0; $i < count($array); $i++) {
    $key = $keys[$i];
    $value = $array[$key];
    echo "$value is $key\n";

Using internal array pointers[edit | edit source]

Each array instance contains an internal pointer. By manipulating this pointer, different elements of an array can be retrieved from the same call at different times.

Using each[edit | edit source]

Each call to each() returns the key and value of the current array element, and increments the internal array pointer.

$array = ["f" => "foo", "b" => "bar"];
while (list($key, $value) = each($array)) {
    echo "$value begins with $key";

Using next[edit | edit source]

$array = ["Alpha", "Beta", "Gamma", "Delta"];
while (($value = next($array)) !== false) {
    echo "$value\n";

Note that this example assumes no elements in the array are identical to boolean false. To prevent such assumption, use key to check if the internal pointer has reached the end of the array:

$array = ["Alpha", "Beta", "Gamma", "Delta"];
while (key($array) !== null) {
    echo current($array) . PHP_EOL;

This also facilitates iterating an array without a direct loop:

class ColorPicker {
    private $colors = ["#FF0064", "#0064FF", "#64FF00", "#FF6400", "#00FF64", "#6400FF"];
    public function nextColor() : string {
        $result = next($colors);
        // if end of array reached
        if (key($colors) === null) {
        return $result;

Using foreach[edit | edit source]

Direct loop[edit | edit source]

foreach ($colors as $color) {
    echo "I am the color $color<br>";

Loop with keys[edit | edit source]

$foods = ['healthy' => 'Apples', 'bad' => 'Ice Cream'];
foreach ($foods as $key => $food) {
    echo "Eating $food is $key";

Loop by reference[edit | edit source]

In the foreach loops in the above examples, modifying the value ($color or $food) directly doesn't change its value in the array. The & operator is required so that the value is a reference pointer to the element in the array.

$years = [2001, 2002, 3, 4];
foreach ($years as &$year) {
    if ($year < 2000) $year += 2000;

This is similar to:

$years = [2001, 2002, 3, 4];
for($i = 0; $i < count($years); $i++) { // these two lines
    $year = &$years[$i];                // are changed to foreach by reference
    if($year < 2000) $year += 2000;

Concurrency[edit | edit source]

PHP arrays can be modified in any ways during iteration without concurrency problems (unlike e.g. Java Lists). If the array is iterated by reference, later iterations will be affected by changes to the array. Otherwise, the changes to the array will not affect later iterations (as if you are iterating a copy of the array instead). Compare looping by value:

$array = [0 => 1, 2 => 3, 4 => 5, 6 => 7];
foreach ($array as $key => $value) {
    if ($key === 0) {
        $array[6] = 17;
    echo "$key => $value\n";


0 => 1
2 => 3
4 => 5
6 => 7

But if the array is iterated with reference,

$array = [0 => 1, 2 => 3, 4 => 5, 6 => 7];
foreach ($array as $key => &$value) {
    if ($key === 0) {
        $array[6] = 17;
    echo "$key => $value\n";


0 => 1
2 => 3
6 => 17

The key-value set of 4 => 5 is no longer iterated, and 6 => 7 is changed to 6 => 17.

Using ArrayObject Iterator[edit | edit source]

Php arrayiterator allows you to modify and unset the values while iterating over arrays and objects.


$array = ['1' => 'apple', '2' => 'banana', '3' => 'cherry'];

$arrayObject = new ArrayObject($array);

$iterator = $arrayObject->getIterator();

for($iterator; $iterator->valid(); $iterator->next()) {
    echo $iterator->key() . ' => ' . $iterator->current() . "</br>";


1 => apple
2 => banana
3 => cherry