The PHP STRLEN Function: Getting the PHP String Length

In PHP, strings are one of the most commonly used data types. Whether you're working with user input, file contents, or any other text-based data, knowing how to manipulate and work with strings is essential. Determining their length is one of the fundamental operations you'll need to perform on strings. This is where the PHP strlen() function comes into play.

What is the strlen() Function?

The strlen() function is a built-in PHP function that returns the length of a given string. In other words, it counts the number of characters (including spaces) in the string and returns that value as an integer.

Here's the basic syntax for using the strlen() function:


The function takes a single argument, $string, the string you want to find the length of. It returns an integer representing the number of characters in the string.

Example Usage

Let's look at some examples to understand how the strlen() function works:

$str1 = "Hello, World!";

$str2 = "PHP is awesome";

$str3 = "   Trimmed   ";

echo strlen($str1); // Output: 13

echo strlen($str2); // Output: 14

echo strlen($str3); // Output: 13

In the example above, we define three different strings and use the strlen() function to get their lengths. Notice that the function counts the spaces as characters, so the string " Trimmed " has a length of 13, including the leading and trailing spaces.

Handling Empty Strings

If you pass an empty string to the strlen() function, it will return 0:

$emptyString = "";

echo strlen($emptyString); // Output: 0

This behavior can be useful when checking if a string is empty before performing further operations on it.

Multibyte String Length

The strlen() function treats the input string as a sequence of bytes, assuming a single-byte character encoding like ASCII or ISO-8859-1. However, if you're working with multibyte character sets like UTF-8, you'll need to use the mb_strlen() function instead. This function considers the multibyte character encoding and returns the correct string length.

$mbStr = "这是一个UTF-8字符串";

echo strlen($mbStr); // Output: 21 (incorrect)

echo mb_strlen($mbStr, 'UTF-8'); // Output: 9 (correct)

In the example above, the regular strlen() function returns an incorrect length of 21 for the UTF-8 string because it counts each byte separately. The mb_strlen() function, on the other hand, correctly counts the number of characters (9) when we provide the 'UTF-8' encoding as the second argument.

Using strlen() in Loops and Conditionals

The strlen() function is often used in loops and conditional statements to perform operations based on the length of a string. For example, you might want to iterate over each character in a string or check if a string meets a certain length requirement.

$str = "Hello, World!";

for ($i = 0; $i < strlen($str); $i++) {

    echo $str[$i] . "\n";


In the example above, we use the strlen() function in the loop condition to iterate over each character in the string and print it on a new line.

$password = "mypassword";

if (strlen($password) < 8) {

    echo "Password must be at least 8 characters long.";

} else {

    echo "Password is long enough.";


Here, we use the strlen() function in an if statement to check if the length of a password string meets a minimum requirement of 8 characters.

Combining strlen() with Other String Functions

The strlen() function is often combined with other PHP string functions to perform more complex operations. For example, you might use it with the substr() function to extract a substring of a specific length:

$str = "The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.";

$substring = substr($str, 0, strlen($str) > 20 ? 20 : strlen($str));

echo $substring; // Output: "The quick brown fox "

In this example, we use the strlen() function to check if the length of the string is greater than 20. If it is, we extract a substring of length 20 using the substr() function. Otherwise, we extract the entire string.

Another common use case is to combine strlen() with the trim() function to remove leading and trailing whitespace from a string:

$str = "   Hello, World!   ";

$trimmedStr = trim($str);

echo strlen($trimmedStr); // Output: 13

Here, we first use the trim() function to remove the leading and trailing spaces from the string, and then we use strlen() to get the length of the trimmed string.


The PHP strlen() function is a simple yet powerful tool for working with strings. It allows you to determine the length of a string, which is a fundamental operation in many string manipulation tasks. By understanding how to use strlen() and combining it with other string functions, you can build more robust and efficient applications that handle text data effectively.

While this article covered the basics of the strlen() function and its usage, PHP has many more advanced string manipulation techniques and functions. As you continue to work with strings, explore the PHP documentation and learn about additional functions like str_replace(), substr_replace(), and more.

Remember, when working with multibyte character sets, it's important to use the mb_strlen() function instead of strlen() to ensure accurate character counting. This will help you avoid potential issues and ensure your string operations work correctly with different character encodings.

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