PHP Functional Programming


PHP's functional programming relies on functions. Functions in PHP provide organized, reusable code to perform a set of actions. Functions simplify the coding process, prevent redundant logic, and make code easier to follow. This topic describes the declaration and utilization of functions, arguments, parameters, return statements and scope in PHP.

Assignment to variables

Anonymous functions can be assigned to variables for use as parameters where a callback is expected:

$uppercase = function($data) {
    return strtoupper($data);

$mixedCase = ["Hello", "World"];
$uppercased = array_map($uppercase, $mixedCase);

These variables can also be used as standalone function calls:

echo $uppercase("Hello world!"); // HELLO WORLD!

Using outside variables

The use construct is used to import variables into the anonymous function's scope:

$divisor = 2332;
$myfunction = function($number) use ($divisor) {
    return $number / $divisor;

echo $myfunction(81620); //Outputs 35

Variables can also be imported by reference:

$collection = [];

$additem = function($item) use (&$collection) {
    $collection[] = $item;


//$collection is now [1,2]

Passing a callback function as a parameter

There are several PHP functions that accept user-defined callback functions as a parameter, such as: call_user_func(), usort() and array_map().

Depending on where the user-defined callback function was defined there are different ways to pass them:

Procedural style:

function square($number)
    return $number * $number;

$initial_array = [1, 2, 3, 4, 5];
$final_array = array_map('square', $initial_array);
var_dump($final_array); // prints the new array with 1, 4, 9, 16, 25

Object Oriented style:

class SquareHolder
    function square($number)
        return $number * $number;

$squaredHolder = new SquareHolder();
$initial_array = [1, 2, 3, 4, 5];
$final_array = array_map([$squaredHolder, 'square'], $initial_array);

var_dump($final_array); // prints the new array with 1, 4, 9, 16, 25

Object Oriented style using a static method:

class StaticSquareHolder
    public static function square($number)
        return $number * $number;

$initial_array = [1, 2, 3, 4, 5];
$final_array = array_map(['StaticSquareHolder', 'square'], $initial_array);
// or:
$final_array = array_map('StaticSquareHolder::square', $initial_array); // for PHP >= 5.2.3

var_dump($final_array); // prints the new array with 1, 4, 9, 16, 25

Using built-in functions as callbacks

In functions taking callable as an argument, you can also put a string with PHP built-in function. It's common to use trim as array_map parameter to remove leading and trailing whitespace from all strings in the array.

$arr = ['   one  ', 'two   ', '   three'];
var_dump(array_map('trim', $arr));

// array(3) {
//   [0] =>
//   string(3) "one"
//   [1] =>
//   string(3) "two"
//   [2] =>
//   string(5) "three"
// }

Anonymous function

An anonymous function is just a function that doesn't have a name.

// Anonymous function
function() {
    return "Hello World!";

In PHP, an anonymous function is treated like an expression and for this reason, it should be ended with a semicolon ;.

An anonymous function should be assigned to a variable.

// Anonymous function assigned to a variable
$sayHello = function($name) {
    return "Hello $name!";

print $sayHello('John'); // Hello John

Or it should be passed as parameter of another function.

$users = [
    ['name' => 'Alice', 'age' => 20], 
    ['name' => 'Bobby', 'age' => 22], 
    ['name' => 'Carol', 'age' => 17]

// Map function applying anonymous function
$userName = array_map(function($user) {
    return $user['name'];
}, $users);

print_r($usersName); // ['Alice', 'Bobby', 'Carol']

Or even been returned from another function.

Self-executing anonymous functions:

// For PHP 7.x
(function () {
    echo "Hello world!";

// For PHP 5.x
call_user_func(function () {
    echo "Hello world!";

Passing an argument into self-executing anonymous functions:

// For PHP 7.x
(function ($name) {
    echo "Hello $name!";

// For PHP 5.x
call_user_func(function ($name) {
    echo "Hello $name!";
}, 'John');


In PHP, an anonymous function has its own scope like any other PHP function.

In JavaScript, an anonymous function can access a variable in outside scope. But in PHP, this is not permitted.

$name = 'John';

// Anonymous function trying access outside scope
$sayHello = function() {
    return "Hello $name!";

print $sayHello('John'); // Hello !
// With notices active, there is also an Undefined variable $name notice


A closure is an anonymous function that can't access outside scope.

When defining an anonymous function as such, you're creating a "namespace" for that function. It currently only has access to that namespace.

$externalVariable = "Hello";
$secondExternalVariable = "Foo"; 
$myFunction = function() { 
  var_dump($externalVariable, $secondExternalVariable); // returns two error notice, since the variables arenĀ“t defined 


It doesn't have access to any external variables. To grant this permission for this namespace to access external variables, you need to introduce it via closures (use()).

$myFunction = function() use($externalVariable, $secondExternalVariable) {
   var_dump($externalVariable, $secondExternalVariable); // Hello Foo

This is heavily attributed to PHP's tight variable scoping - If a variable isn't defined within the scope, or isn't brought in with global then it does not exist.

Also note:

Inheriting variables from the parent scope is not the same as using global variables. Global variables exist in the global scope, which is the same no matter what function is executing.

The parent scope of a closure is the function in which the closure was declared (not necessarily the function it was called from).

Taken from the PHP Documentation for Anonymous Functions

In PHP, closures use an early-binding approach. This means that variables passed to the closure's namespace using use keyword will have the same values when the closure was defined.

To change this behavior you should pass the variable by-reference.

$rate = .05;

// Exports variable to closure's scope
$calculateTax = function ($value) use ($rate) {
    return $value * $rate;

$rate = .1; 

print $calculateTax(100); // 5
$rate = .05;

// Exports variable to closure's scope
$calculateTax = function ($value) use (&$rate) { // notice the & before $rate
    return $value * $rate;

$rate = .1;

print $calculateTax(100); // 10

Default arguments are not implicitly required when defining anonymous functions with/without closures.

$message = 'Im yelling at you';

$yell = function() use($message) {
    echo strtoupper($message);

$yell(); // returns: IM YELLING AT YOU

Pure functions

A pure function is a function that, given the same input, will always return the same output and are side-effect free.

// This is a pure function
function add($a, $b) {
    return $a + $b;

Some side-effects are changing the filesystem, interacting with databases, printing to the screen.

// This is an impure function
function add($a, $b) {
    echo "Adding...";
    return $a + $b;

Objects as a function

class SomeClass {
    public function __invoke($param1, $param2) {
        // put your code here

$instance = new SomeClass();
$instance('First', 'Second'); // call the __invoke() method

An object with an __invoke method can be used exactly as any other function.

The __invoke method will have access to all properties of the object and will be able to call any methods.

Common functional methods in PHP


Applying a function to all elements of an array :

array_map('strtoupper', $array);

Be aware that this is the only method of the list where the callback comes first.

Reducing (or folding)

Reducing an array to a single value :

$sum = array_reduce($numbers, function ($carry, $number) {
   return $carry + $number;


Returns only the array items for which the callback returns true :

$onlyEven = array_filter($numbers, function ($number) {
    return ($number % 2) === 0;