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How do I use shorthand if / else?

Posted by: admin November 17, 2017 Leave a comment


I’ve tried using the examples from this page, but I can’t output any results.

This is my IF statement that works:

if (!empty($address['street2'])) echo $address['street2'].'<br />';

And this is my none-working shorthand code

$test = (empty($address['street2'])) ? 'Yes <br />' : 'No <br />';

// Also tested this
(empty($address['street2'])) ? 'Yes <br />' : 'No <br />';

What am I doing wrong?

After Brians tip, I discovered what went wrong.
Echoing $test outputs the result. So then I tried the following:

echo (empty($storeData['street2'])) ? 'Yes <br />' : 'No <br />';

And that worked like a charm!



(condition) ? /* value to return if condition is true */ 
            : /* value to return if condition is false */ ;

syntax is not a “shorthand if” operator (the ? is called the conditional operator) because you cannot execute code in the same manner as if you did:

if (condition) {
    /* condition is true, do something like echo */
else {
    /* condition is false, do something else */

In your example, you are executing the echo statement when the $address is not empty. You can’t do this the same way with the conditional operator. What you can do however, is echo the result of the conditional operator:

echo empty($address['street2']) ? "Street2 is empty!" : $address['street2'];

and this will display “Street is empty!” if it is empty, otherwise it will display the street2 address.


Basic True / False Declaration

$is_admin = ($user['permissions'] == 'admin' ? true : false);

Conditional Welcome Message

echo 'Welcome '.($user['is_logged_in'] ? $user['first_name'] : 'Guest').'!';

Conditional Items Message

echo 'Your cart contains '.$num_items.' item'.($num_items != 1 ? 's' : '').'.';


The ternary operator is just a shorthand for and if/else block. Your working code does not have an else condition, so is not suitable for this.

The following example will work:

echo empty($address['street2']) ? 'empty' : 'not empty';


PHP 7+

As of PHP 7, this task can be performed simply by using the Null coalescing operator like this :

echo $address['street2'] ?? 'Empty';


Conditional Welcome Message

echo 'Welcome '.($user['is_logged_in'] ? $user['first_name'] : 'Guest').'!';

Nested PHP Shorthand

echo 'Your score is:  '.($score > 10 ? ($age > 10 ? 'Average' : 'Exceptional') : ($age > 10 ? 'Horrible' : 'Average') );


Note that when using nested conditional operators, you may want to use parenthesis to avoid possible issues!

It looks like PHP doesn’t work the same way as at least Javascript or C#.

$score = 15;
$age = 5;

// The following will return "Exceptional"
echo 'Your score is: ' . ($score > 10 ? ($age > 10 ? 'Average' : 'Exceptional') : ($age > 10 ? 'Horrible' : 'Average'));

// The following will return "Horrible"
echo 'Your score is: ' . ($score > 10 ? $age > 10 ? 'Average' : 'Exceptional' : $age > 10 ? 'Horrible' : 'Average');

The same code in Javascript and C# return “Exceptional” in both cases.

In the 2nd case, what PHP does is (or at least that’s what I understand):

  1. is $score > 10? yes
  2. is $age > 10? no, so the current $age > 10 ? 'Average' : 'Exceptional' returns ‘Exceptional’
  3. then, instead of just stopping the whole statement and returning ‘Exceptional’, it continues evaluating the next statement
  4. the next statement becomes 'Exceptional' ? 'Horrible' : 'Average' which returns ‘Horrible’, as ‘Exceptional’ is truthy

From the documentation: http://php.net/manual/en/language.operators.comparison.php

It is recommended that you avoid “stacking” ternary expressions. PHP’s
behaviour when using more than one ternary operator within a single
statement is non-obvious.


You can do this even shorter by replacing echo for <?=?>

<?=(empty($storeData['street2'])) ? 'Yes <br />' : 'No <br />'?>

This is useful especially when you want to determine, inside a navbar, whether the menu option should be displayed as already visited (clicked) or not:

<li<?=($basename=='index.php' ? ' class="active"' : '')?>><a href="index.php">Home</a></li>


I think you used the brackets the wrong way. Try this:

$test = (empty($address['street2']) ? 'Yes <br />' : 'No <br />');

I think it should work, you can also use:

echo (empty($address['street2']) ? 'Yes <br />' : 'No <br />');

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