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Narrowing Types

Narrowing a type is usually needed when we have a union type like bool|int and we want to work only with one of the types in a branch. Other use case for narrowing is when we want to execute code only for a specific subtype, for example when we’re interested only in InvalidArgumentException but we’ve got Exception in a variable.

PHPStan supports several ways of narrowing types.

Strict comparison operators #

In case of scalar values type can be narrowed using === and !== operators:

if ($stringOrBool === true) {
// $stringOrBool is true here
}

These operators can either be used in conditions, or in an assert() call:

assert($stringOrBool === true);

// $stringOrBool is true after the assert() call

Type-checking functions #

  • is_array()
  • is_bool()
  • is_callable()
  • is_float() / is_double() / is_real()
  • is_int() / is_integer() / is_long()
  • is_numeric()
  • is_iterable()
  • is_null()
  • is_object()
  • is_resource()
  • is_scalar()
  • is_string()
  • is_subclass_of()
  • is_a()

These functions can either be used in conditions, or in an assert() call.

instanceof operator #

// $exception is Exception
if ($exception instanceof \InvalidArgumentException) {
// $exception is \InvalidArgumentException
}

The instanceof operator can either be used in conditions, or in an assert() call.

PHPDoc Types #

The best way to enforce more specific types throughout your codebase is to use them in PHPDocs and have them checked by PHPStan.

For example: If you call a function from your code that requires a non-empty-string:

Parameter #1 $contents of function doFoo() expects non-empty-string, string given.

You can eliminate the empty string '' before proceeding further with a call like assert($s !== ''), but that still allows your function to be called with '' and crash after the fact.

If you also annotate your function with @param non-empty-string $s, this spreads the type throughout your whole codebase, making it overall safer.

Custom type-checking functions and methods #

Let’s consider a custom type-checking function like this:

public function foo(object $object): void
{
$this->checkType($object);
$object->doSomething(); // Call to an undefined method object::doSomething().
}

public function checkType(object $object): void
{
if (!$object instanceof BarService) {
throw new WrongObjectTypeException();
}
}

During the analysis of the foo() method, PHPStan doesn’t understand that the type of $object was narrowed to BarService because it doesn’t descend to called functions and symbols, it just reads their typehints and PHPDocs.

PHPStan 1.9.0 and newer supports custom PHPDoc tags @phpstan-assert, @phpstan-assert-if-true, @phpstan-assert-if-false to tell the analyzer about what’s going on inside the called function and how types are narrowed. Besides arguments, it also supports narrowing types of properties and returned values from other methods on the same object.

public function foo(object $object): void
{
$this->checkType($object);
$object->doSomething(); // No error
\PHPStan\dumpType($object); // BarService
}

/** @phpstan-assert BarService $object */
public function checkType(object $object): void
{
if (!$object instanceof BarService) {
throw new WrongObjectTypeException();
}
}

If the called function doesn’t throw an exception, but indicates the type via bool return type:

public function foo(mixed $arg): void
{
if ($this->isStdClass($arg)) {
\PHPStan\dumpType($arg); // stdClass
}
}

/** @phpstan-assert-if-true \stdClass $arg */
public function isStdClass(mixed $arg): bool
{
return $arg instanceof \stdClass;
}

These @phpstan-assert tags also seamlessly work with generics:

/**
* @template T of object
* @param class-string<T> $class
* @phpstan-assert-if-true T $object
*/

public function isObjectOfClass(string $class, object $object): bool
{
return $object instanceof $class;
}

Type negation is also supported:

/**
* @phpstan-assert !string $arg
*/

public function checkNotString(mixed $arg): void
{
if (is_string($arg)) {
throw new \Exception();
}
}

When an object has “hassers” and “getters”, PHPStan can be informed about their relation:

/** @phpstan-assert-if-true !null $this->getName() */
public function hasName(): bool
{
return $this->name !== null;
}

public function getName(): ?string
{
return $this->name;
}

Type-specifying extensions #

Instead of writing custom PHPDoc tags, you can also implement a custom type-specifying extension.

Narrowing types can also be performed by assertion libraries like webmozart/assert and beberlei/assert. You can install PHPStan extensions for these libraries so that PHPStan can understand how these custom function calls narrow down types.

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