Magic Methods

Domains: PHP

The function names __construct(), __destruct(), __call(), __callStatic(), __get(), __set(), __isset(), __unset(), __sleep(), __wakeup(), __toString(), __invoke(), __set_state(), __clone() and __debugInfo() are magical in PHP classes. You cannot have functions with these names in any of your classes unless you want the magic functionality associated with them.

Note: All magic methods MUST be declared as public


PHP reserves all function names starting with __ as magical. It is recommended that you do not use function names with __ in PHP unless you want some documented magic functionality.

__sleep() and __wakeup()

public __sleep ( void ) : array
__wakeup ( void ) : void

serialize() checks if your class has a function with the magic name __sleep(). If so, that function is executed prior to any serialization. It can clean up the object and is supposed to return an array with the names of all variables of that object that should be serialized. If the method doesn't return anything then NULL is serialized and E_NOTICE is issued.


It is not possible for __sleep() to return names of private properties in parent classes. Doing this will result in an E_NOTICE level error. Instead you may use the Serializable interface.

The intended use of __sleep() is to commit pending data or perform similar cleanup tasks. Also, the function is useful if you have very large objects which do not need to be saved completely.

Conversely, unserialize() checks for the presence of a function with the magic name __wakeup(). If present, this function can reconstruct any resources that the object may have.

The intended use of __wakeup() is to reestablish any database connections that may have been lost during serialization and perform other reinitialization tasks.

Example #1 Sleep and wakeup

class Connection
    protected $link;
    private $dsn, $username, $password;
    public function __construct($dsn, $username, $password)
        $this->dsn = $dsn;
        $this->username = $username;
        $this->password = $password;
    private function connect()
        $this->link = new PDO($this->dsn, $this->username, $this->password);
    public function __sleep()
        return array('dsn', 'username', 'password');
    public function __wakeup()


public __toString ( void ) : string

The __toString() method allows a class to decide how it will react when it is treated like a string. For example, what echo $obj; will print. This method must return a string, as otherwise a fatal E_RECOVERABLE_ERROR level error is emitted.


You cannot throw an exception from within a __toString() method. Doing so will result in a fatal error.

Example #2 Simple example

// Declare a simple class
class TestClass
    public $foo;

    public function __construct($foo)
        $this->foo = $foo;

    public function __toString()
        return $this->foo;

$class = new TestClass('Hello');
echo $class;

The above example will output:


It is worth noting that before PHP 5.2.0 the __toString() method was only called when it was directly combined with echo or print. Since PHP 5.2.0, it is called in any string context (e.g. in printf() with %s modifier) but not in other types contexts (e.g. with %d modifier). Since PHP 5.2.0, converting objects without __toString() method to string would cause E_RECOVERABLE_ERROR.


__invoke ([ $... ] ) : mixed

The __invoke() method is called when a script tries to call an object as a function.


This feature is available since PHP 5.3.0.

Example #3 Using __invoke()

class CallableClass
    public function __invoke($x)
$obj = new CallableClass;

The above example will output:



static __set_state ( array $properties ) : object

This static method is called for classes exported by var_export() since PHP 5.1.0.

The only parameter of this method is an array containing exported properties in the form array('property' => value, ...).

Example #4 Using __set_state() (since PHP 5.1.0)


class A
    public $var1;
    public $var2;

    public static function __set_state($an_array) // As of PHP 5.1.0
        $obj = new A;
        $obj->var1 = $an_array['var1'];
        $obj->var2 = $an_array['var2'];
        return $obj;

$a = new A;
$a->var1 = 5;
$a->var2 = 'foo';

eval('$b = ' . var_export($a, true) . ';'); // $b = A::__set_state(array(
                                            //    'var1' => 5,
                                            //    'var2' => 'foo',
                                            // ));


The above example will output:

object(A)#2 (2) {
  string(3) "foo"

Note: When exporting an object, var_export() does not check whether __set_state() is implemented by the object's class, so re-importing such objects will fail, if __set_state() is not implemented. Particularly, this affects some internal classes. It is the responsibility of the programmer to verify that only objects will be re-imported, whose class implements __set_state().


__debugInfo ( void ) : array

This method is called by var_dump() when dumping an object to get the properties that should be shown. If the method isn't defined on an object, then all public, protected and private properties will be shown.

This feature was added in PHP 5.6.0.

Example #5 Using __debugInfo()

class C {
    private $prop;

    public function __construct($val) {
        $this->prop = $val;

    public function __debugInfo() {
        return [
            'propSquared' => $this->prop ** 2,

var_dump(new C(42));

The above example will output:

object(C)#1 (1) {

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