PHP RFC: get_class() disallow null parameter


When null is passed as the parameter to get_class() inside a class context, the behaviour of the function can be highly surprising,

class Foo
    function bar($repository)
        $result = $repository->find(100);
        echo get_class($result);

If $result contains a valid object returned from the repository, the output will be of the class name of the type of $result.

If $result contains null, the output will be of the class context where get_class() was called from, in this case “Foo”.

This feature violates the Principle of least astonishment: “if a necessary feature has a high astonishment factor, it may be necessary to redesign the feature.”


Disallow null being passed to the function as a valid parameter. If get_class() is called with null as the parameter, a warning will be emitted:

Warning: get_class() expects parameter 1 to be object, null given in %s on line %d

I.e. the valid ways to call the function will be:

  • without any parameter.
  • with an object as the parameter.

Those two options will continue to have the same behaviour they currently have.

Backward Incompatible Changes

Most people won't see a BC break, as for the majority of people, passing null to this function is not a desired behaviour.

For people who do deliberately pass null to the function they will need to refactor their code from:

$x = get_class($some_value_that_may_be_null);


if ($some_value_that_may_be_null === null) {
    $x = get_class();
else {
    $x = get_class($some_value_that_may_be_null);

Proposed PHP Version(s)


null vs default param

When this topic was discussed before, it came as a surprise to some people that PHP can tell the difference between passing null and having a default value be null. This is perfectly possible in both internal code, as well as userland code:

function get_class($item = null)
    if (func_num_args() == 0) {
        return get_current_scope_name();
    if ($item === null) {
        trigger_error("get_class passed null, which is not an object.");
    if (is_object($item) == false) {
        trigger_error("value is not an object");
        return false;
    return gettype($item);

Patches and Tests



An option needs 50%+1 votes to win

get_class() disallow null parameter (83.3% approved)
User Vote
ajf No
bishop Yes
bwoebi Yes
colinodell Yes
danack Yes
daverandom Yes
galvao Yes
kguest Yes
leigh Yes
lstrojny Yes
malukenho No
mariano Yes
mike No
mrook Yes
ocramius Yes
peehaa Yes
stas Yes
trowski Yes