function select($select = '*')
        if( is_string($select) ) {
            $select = explode(',', $select) ;

        foreach($select as $s) {
            $s = trim($s) ;

            if($s != '') {
                $this->aSelect[] = $s ;

        return $this ;

In PHP, what is meant by return $this.

  • return means what it always means: return a value from a function. $this is the current object, usually the object through which the current member function was called.
    – tdammers
    Aug 26, 2012 at 6:37
  • by returning $this the function return the current object. then what is the purpose of body of the function. we can write the function somthing (){ retuen $this; } Aug 26, 2012 at 6:41
  • I took the liberty to change the title to clarify.
    – tdammers
    Aug 26, 2012 at 7:02

3 Answers 3


There are many scenarios in which one might want to return $this from a function, but the most popular one is 'method chaining'.

For example, in an SQL abstraction layer, you may have an object that represents a query, and then call a series of methods on it to extend it. Consider the following code:

$query = $database->select();
$query->whereEquals('username', $username);
$user = $query->executeSingleRow();

If each of $query's methods returns the modified query object, we can instead write this as:

$user = $database
            ->whereEquals('username', $username)

The second version is closer to how you'd write an actual SQL query, and it works without introducing the exta $query variable.


By returning $this you it makes it easier for the programmer to chain commands. Consider a car object. You could say $car->start()->forward()->left()->forward() on line if you return $this in each function.

There is actually a question about this in stack overflow which could help clarify what method chaining is: https://stackoverflow.com/questions/3724112/php-method-chaining


Chian type programming... return $this will return a same object all the time. that make you be ready to call upon it a next function, next function again return same instance such that to call upon it a third function and so on.

see example first

class MY_CLASS(){
    string attrib; 
    func SetMethod(string value){this.attrib=value;}

to call Method1 on un-known object, we can write as following.

(new MY_CLASS()).Method1

expend above class

 class MY_CLASS(){
        string attrib; 
       func SetMethod(string value){this.attrib=value;}
       func int GetMethod(){return this.Attrib);}

Now to call it for GetMethod we can't do with un-known object as following new MY_CLASS().SetMethod(30); a = new My_CLASS().GetMethod();

Yah in other languages like C# we can do as following

a=(new MY_CLASS().SetMethod(30)).GetMethod();

to achieve same facilities in php you need to write 'return $this' in function where you think to be use for consegative calls

Hope answer is clear.

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