An empty array in PHP is considered falsey. That means the following will not print anything as the array is empty.

$myArray = array()

if ( $myArray ) {
  print "My Array is NOT empty";

What is considered better practice in this case when determining if there are elements in the array:

  1. To use if ( !empty( $myArray ) )
  2. To use if ( myArray )

Please note: this question is not about subjectivity. I don't care what my team mate thinks. I care about best practices in the industry.


If the intent of your condition is to check that the array contains 0 elements, using count($array) === 0 is the best and most readable solution.

  • Actually, you'll never get an error, as count() is defined for all types, it simply returns 1 for anything other than an array. However it will return 0 for an unset variable (which would raise a Notice), or for null: 3v4l.org/7lEGR Whether this particular set of cases is more or less useful than other "empty"/"falsey" values depends on the situation. – IMSoP May 3 '17 at 13:33
  • 2
    Of course. I forgot the most important php rule. Never make assumptions about the behavior of built-in functions. – Thijs Riezebeek May 3 '17 at 14:18
  • Well, more straight-forwardly, "don't expect built-in functions to complain about types". Throwing an error for the wrong type is very rare, most functions just try to give a reasonable answer. In this case, the function simply asks "how many things are in this variable?" - if it's null, then there are 0 things; if it's a scalar or non-countable object, there is 1 thing; if it's an array or collection object implementing Countable, then it looks how many things are in the list / collection. Another clue that the name is count not array_count. – IMSoP May 3 '17 at 14:52
  • I understand the importance of readability and the hate for empty(), but it should be mentioned that counting (= iterating the whole array) is much slower and could even result in memory issues when working with huge arrays and/or being careless with the memory in general. So, always be aware of what you count! :) – Marcello Mönkemeyer Jul 9 '18 at 16:31
  • @MarcelloMönkemeyer, actually, the C struct representing the array in the PHP core keeps track of the length of the array, so count() on a native array will only cause that int value to be returned. This makes the check very inexpensive. – Thijs Riezebeek Jul 10 '18 at 17:16

I'd say it depends on the "typical" audience who would be reading the code.

  1. If they are likely to be beginners, less familiar with PHP, or coming from a more verbose language (like Java), then they longer, more explicit if ( !empty( $myArray ) ) would be more clear.

  2. If they are moderately experienced with PHP, C, JavaScript, etc. then the terser, more idiomatic if ( $myArray ) would be my preference.


loose type is one of problems of PHP, but also it gives good developers more flexibility.

If you already defined $myArray = array(); Then you can just use if ($myArray), because you already know it is an array, and also the name tells you it is an array. falsy case would happen only when $myArray is empty.

But, you don't need to specify $myArray because there is a count() function, check if it is empty Countable. It will throw a warning when you pass a string of anything not countable. (above PHP7.2)

No matter what you prefer, there is no point to do if (!empty($myArray)) because you are coding in PHP. You need to take advantage of falsy values, not against it.

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