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PHP: Arithmetic Operations in Strings

PHP QUIZ: Consider the following code, what is the output?

$applesBought = 5;
$applesSold = 3;

echo "Now I have " . $applesBought - $applesSold . " apples left";

Do you know what the output is? Read on for the answer and explanation...


-3 apples left

What happened to your apples? Surprised? No? Good. But if you were surprised and wondering why...

The answer lies in PHP's Operator Precedence. The arithmetic operators + and - have the same precedence as the string concatenation operator . (dot). Because their precedence is the same, PHP will try to interpret the expression from left to right as such:

1) It will concatenate the string with the integer:

$applesBought = 5;
"Now I have " . $applesBought
This produces the string "Now I have 5"

2) It will subtract the integer from the string:

$applesSold = 3;
"Now I have 5" - $applesSold
Here, PHP will type juggle the string and convert it to an integer.  
Converting a string, that begins with an alphabetical character, to an integer will result in 0.  
Therefore, it is actually subtracting 3 from 0.
0 - 3
This produces the integer -3

3) It will concatenate the integer with the string:

-3 . " apples left"
This produces the string "-3 apples left"

It is generally not a good idea to perform operations like this mixed into string concatenation, but if you insist on doing so, don't forget the parentheses!

$applesBought = 5;
$applesSold = 3;

echo "Now I have " . ($applesBought - $applesSold) . " apples left";

// Outputs:
// Now I have 2 apples left
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