Multi-Dimensional Arrays in PHP


Today we are going to learn the manipulation of multi-dimensional arrays in this Multi-Dimensional Arrays in PHP.

  • Arrays are used to store more than one similar type values in a single variable.
  • These values can be anything like strings, integers, floats, objects and even other arrays.
  • When we include arrays in array, we deal with multi-dimensional arrays.
  • There are situations when we need to store multiple values for an entity and group such entities at one place. I mean we can store the values such as name, quantity and price for different products. Multi-dimensional arrays are better storages in such situations.
  • We can have any number of dimensions in multi-dimensional arrays.
  • Two-dimensional and Three dimensional arrays are mostly used. We can even have four, five, and six up to n dimensional arrays.
  • The dimensions of an array indicate the number of indices required to fetch a value from the array. Such as two dimensional arrays will require 2 dimensions and three dimensional arrays will require 3 dimensions.
  • Multi-dimensional arrays can be indexed as well as associative arrays.
  • Let us go through various examples of multi-dimensional arrays:

Two-dimensional arrays:

      • A two dimensional array means array of arrays.
        • Example of indexed two dimensional array:

      • Here, we have declared a $marks two-dimensional array since it has 3 arrays inside an array.
      • This is an indexed array because the arrays will be given indexes 0, 1 and 2 automatically.
      • And in turn the values inside the arrays will also be given indices starting from 0 each.
      • Since it is a 2-dimensional array, it requires 2 dimensions i.e. row and column to retrieve the values.
      • Let is demonstrate it by writing a code.
      • To demonstrate it create a new folder named multi_arrays in the htdocs folder in the xampp folder in C drive. Open a new notepad++ document and save it as index.php in this newly created multi_arrays folder
      • Write the following code in index.php file:

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      • In the above code we have declared a $marks array containing marks of 3 students in 3 subjects each.
      • These elements can be accessed using 2 dimensions, one for row and other for column.
      • The 3 arrays in the $marks array are indexed with 0, 1 and 2. These will be considered as rows.
      • The elements inside each row are indexed starting with 0 (zero) each. These are considered as columns.
      • So the first element in first row can be accessed as $marks[0][0], second element in first row can be accessed as $marks[0][1] and so on.
      • The code for accessing all elements manually is given below:

      • The elements are accessed according to their indexes in each row and column.
      • If there is a big 2-dimensional array containing large number of elements, it is not possible to access such a large number of elements manually.
      • Thus we can use a nested for loop for this purpose. Why nested only, because we have more than one indices in case of multi-dimensional arrays.
      • If there are 2 indices then 2 for loops, if there are 3 indices then 3 for loops and so on.
      • Let us see how to access array values using loops. The code is given below:

      • Here, we have used the outer for loop for row and inner for loop for column.
      • The variable $r is the counter for row for loop and $c is the counter for column for loop.
      • $r is first initialized to 0 (zero) i.e. zeroth row.
      • The condition given is

        . Here, the function count() will count the number of arrays present in the array $marks and return that number. In our case this condition is equal to $r<3, because we have 3 arrays in $marks array.
      • In the inner for loop. $c is initialized to 0 (zero) i.e zeroth column.
      • The condition given here is

        . Here, the parameter in count() function is $marks[$r], this indicates the particular row in the $marks array. All together it means that the count function will count the number of elements in the particular row given. For example if the value of $r is 0, it will count the number of elements in zeroth row and return that number. So if $r has value 0, the condition will be like $c<3. This is because the zeroth row contains 3 elements/columns.
      • So all the elements are displayed using echo function accessing the indices using $r and $c variables.
      • The statement is shown below:

      • A space is left after every element in a row.
      • After completion of one row a break statement is executed to leave a line break and start a new row on new line.
      • The output is shown below:


fig 1

        • Example of associative two dimensional array:
      • The same array in indexed form given above can be written in associative form as shown below:

      • It is similar to indexed array, but only each value is given a key for it like Maths, Physics and Chemistry.
      • Let us access all the elements using for loop. But we have an associative array which is accessed using a foreach loop. So let us see the code given below which is written in index.php file:

      • Here, the above associative 2-dimensional array values are displayed using a nesting of for loop and foreach loop.
      • The for loop is used to loop through the number of arrays present in the $marks1 array and foreach loop is used to loop through the key-value pairs.
      • Here we now know that the counter $r of for loop is initialized to 0 and loops till the condition doesn’t become false i.e. till all the rows are not traversed completely.
      • The foreach loop is used to go through each and every key-value pair.
      • It takes every row and selects each key-value pair in it as shown in the statement below:

      • $marks1[$r] selects the particular row, as is the keyword and $key fetches the key and $value fetches the value of that key from that particular row using $key=>$value.
      • The values of $key and $value are then displayed using echo function.
      • Each row is printed on separate line and the HTML unordered list is used to display the data.
      • The output is shown below:



      • fig 2


    • Three-dimensional arrays:
      • A three-dimensional array has arrays in an array and the inner arrays in turn have arrays inside it.
      • These 3-dimensional arrays require 3 indices to access the values stored inside it.
      • A three dimensional array is characterized by its height, width and depth.
      • Let us see an example of 3-dimensional array:

      • Here, we have declared a $product three dimensional array since it has 2 arrays in an array and the 2 arrays inturn have 3 arrays each.
      • The array contains the product’s name, product quantity and product price.
      • This will require 3 loops to access its elements.
      • Let us demonstrate how to do it. The code is given below:

      • In the above code we have used 3 for loops to display the $product array content.
      • The values are displayed in a HTML table.
      • The outer for loop is used for the layer. You imagine a three dimensional array as layers of 2-dimensional arrays one above the other. We consider this layer in the first for loop.
      • Next the second for loop is used for rows and the inner most for loop is used for columns.
      • The value is displayed using echo function as shown below:

      • The output of the above code is shown below:


fig 3

    • In the similar way arrays with multiple dimensions like four, five etc. can also be used. But mostly in the applications multi-dimensional arrays with 2 and 3 dimensions are enough.


Thus we finished learning how to make use of multi-dimensional arrays in this Multi-dimensional arrays in PHP.



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