When to use self over $this?


Question

In PHP 5, what is the difference between using self and $this?

When is each appropriate?

1
1924
6/24/2019 7:03:01 PM

Accepted Answer

Short Answer

Use $this to refer to the current object. Use self to refer to the current class. In other words, use $this->member for non-static members, use self::$member for static members.

Full Answer

Here is an example of correct usage of $this and self for non-static and static member variables:

<?php
class X {
    private $non_static_member = 1;
    private static $static_member = 2;

    function __construct() {
        echo $this->non_static_member . ' '
           . self::$static_member;
    }
}

new X();
?>

Here is an example of incorrect usage of $this and self for non-static and static member variables:

<?php
class X {
    private $non_static_member = 1;
    private static $static_member = 2;

    function __construct() {
        echo self::$non_static_member . ' '
           . $this->static_member;
    }
}

new X();
?>

Here is an example of polymorphism with $this for member functions:

<?php
class X {
    function foo() {
        echo 'X::foo()';
    }

    function bar() {
        $this->foo();
    }
}

class Y extends X {
    function foo() {
        echo 'Y::foo()';
    }
}

$x = new Y();
$x->bar();
?>

Here is an example of suppressing polymorphic behaviour by using self for member functions:

<?php
class X {
    function foo() {
        echo 'X::foo()';
    }

    function bar() {
        self::foo();
    }
}

class Y extends X {
    function foo() {
        echo 'Y::foo()';
    }
}

$x = new Y();
$x->bar();
?>

The idea is that $this->foo() calls the foo() member function of whatever is the exact type of the current object. If the object is of type X, it thus calls X::foo(). If the object is of type Y, it calls Y::foo(). But with self::foo(), X::foo() is always called.

From http://www.phpbuilder.com/board/showthread.php?t=10354489:

By http://board.phpbuilder.com/member.php?145249-laserlight

1645
10/16/2018 3:23:02 PM

The keyword self does NOT refer merely to the 'current class', at least not in a way that restricts you to static members. Within the context of a non-static member, self also provides a way of bypassing the vtable (see wiki on vtable) for the current object. Just as you can use parent::methodName() to call the parents version of a function, so you can call self::methodName() to call the current classes implementation of a method.

class Person {
    private $name;

    public function __construct($name) {
        $this->name = $name;
    }

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

    public function getTitle() {
        return $this->getName()." the person";
    }

    public function sayHello() {
        echo "Hello, I'm ".$this->getTitle()."<br/>";
    }

    public function sayGoodbye() {
        echo "Goodbye from ".self::getTitle()."<br/>";
    }
}

class Geek extends Person {
    public function __construct($name) {
        parent::__construct($name);
    }

    public function getTitle() {
        return $this->getName()." the geek";
    }
}

$geekObj = new Geek("Ludwig");
$geekObj->sayHello();
$geekObj->sayGoodbye();

This will output:

Hello, I'm Ludwig the geek
Goodbye from Ludwig the person

sayHello() uses the $this pointer, so the vtable is invoked to call Geek::getTitle(). sayGoodbye() uses self::getTitle(), so the vtable is not used, and Person::getTitle() is called. In both cases, we are dealing with the method of an instantiated object, and have access to the $this pointer within the called functions.


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