PHP Manual
Data structures

Data type Enum object in PHP

29. 05. 2022

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As of PHP 8.1, the Enum data type can be used to define exact enumeration values for a list. This is useful for cases where we know that the value of a variable can only take on a specific few values.

For example, this is how I store notification types:

enum OrderNotificationType: string
case Email = 'email';
case Sms = 'text';

In PHP, the Enum data type is a classic object that behaves like a special type of constant, but also has an instance that can be passed on. However, unlike a regular object, it is subject to a number of restrictions.

Differences between Enum and objects

Although enums are built on top of classes and objects, they do not support all the functionality associated with objects. In particular, enum objects are prohibited from having internal state (they must always be a static class).

A specific list of differences:

  • Constructors and destructors are forbidden.
  • Inheritance is not supported. Enums cannot be extended or inherited by another class.
  • Static or object properties are not allowed.
  • Cloning of specific Enum values (instances) is not supported, each individual instance must be a singleton instance.
  • Magic methods, except as noted below, are prohibited.

The following object features are available and behave just like any other object:

  • Public, Private, and Protected methods.
  • Public, private, and protected static methods.
  • Public, private, and protected constants.
  • Enums can implement any number of interfaces.
  • Attributes can be attached to enums and cases. The target filter TARGET_CLASS includes the Enums themselves. The target filter TARGET_CLASS_CONST includes Enum cases.
  • Magic methods __call, __callStatic and __invoke.
  • The constants __CLASS__ and __FUNCTION__ behave like normal constants
  • The magic constant ::class on the Enum type is evaluated as the full name of the data type, including any namespace, exactly as for an object. The magic constant ::class on an instance of type Case is also evaluated as type Enum, since it is an instance of a different type.

Using Enum as a data type

Imagine we have an enum representing the types of suits. In this case, we just need to define the Suit type and store the individual valid values.

We then get an instance of the particular option classically via a quadratic, as when working with a static constant.

Example of defining an Enum, invoking it by a specific type and passing it to a function:

enum Suit
case Hearts;
case Diamonds;
case Clubs;
case Spades;
function doStuff(Suit $s)
// ...

Comparison of two values

The fundamental advantage of enums over objects and constants is that it is easy to compare their values.

A basic comparison that we work with a specific value can be done as follows:

$a = Suit::Spades;
$b = Suit::Spades;
$a === $b; // true

Very often we also need to decide that a particular value belongs in a valid Enum value enumeration. This can be easily verified as follows:

$a = Suit::Spades;
$a instanceof Suit; // true

Reading the value of the type

We can read a specific type value either as a name of a calling constant or directly as a real defined value (if it exists):

enum Colors
case Red;
case Blue;
case Green;
public function getColor(): string
return $this->name;
function paintColor(Colors $colors): void
echo "Paint:" . $colors->getColor();

The value of the calling constant is read via the name property. It is also important that a custom function can be implemented directly in the Enum data type, which can be called over each Enum.

If a particular Enum also implements real values (which are hidden under each constant), their value can be read as well:

enum OrderNotificationType: string
case Email = 'email';
case Sms = 'text';
$type = OrderNotificationType::Email;
echo $type->value;

All valid Enum values

Often we need to list (for example, to the user in an error message) all possible values that Enum can take. When using constants this was not possible, Enum allows this easily:


Returns [Suit::Hearts, Suit::Diamonds, Suit::Clubs, Suit::Spades].

Verify that the variable is of type Enum

We can easily verify that a particular unknown variable contains Enum by a condition:

if ($haystack instanceof \BackedEnum) {

Each Enum object is automatically a child of the generic \BackedEnum interface.

For more information, see the discussion on the PhpStan GitHub:

Jan Barášek   Více o autorovi

Autor článku pracuje jako seniorní vývojář a software architekt v Praze. Navrhuje a spravuje velké webové aplikace, které znáte a používáte. Od roku 2009 nabral bohaté zkušenosti, které tímto webem předává dál.

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