Command line options

The list of command line options provided by the PHP binary can be queried anytime by running PHP with the -h switch:

Usage: php [options] [-f] <file> [--] [args...]
       php [options] -r <code> [--] [args...]
       php [options] [-B <begin_code>] -R <code> [-E <end_code>] [--] [args...]
       php [options] [-B <begin_code>] -F <file> [-E <end_code>] [--] [args...]
       php [options] -- [args...]
       php [options] -a

  -a               Run interactively
  -c <path>|<file> Look for php.ini file in this directory
  -n               No php.ini file will be used
  -d foo[=bar]     Define INI entry foo with value 'bar'
  -e               Generate extended information for debugger/profiler
  -f <file>        Parse and execute <file>.
  -h               This help
  -i               PHP information
  -l               Syntax check only (lint)
  -m               Show compiled in modules
  -r <code>        Run PHP <code> without using script tags <?..?>
  -B <begin_code>  Run PHP <begin_code> before processing input lines
  -R <code>        Run PHP <code> for every input line
  -F <file>        Parse and execute <file> for every input line
  -E <end_code>    Run PHP <end_code> after processing all input lines
  -H               Hide any passed arguments from external tools.
  -s               Output HTML syntax highlighted source.
  -v               Version number
  -w               Output source with stripped comments and whitespace.
  -z <file>        Load Zend extension <file>.

  args...          Arguments passed to script. Use -- args when first argument
                   starts with - or script is read from stdin

  --ini            Show configuration file names

  --rf <name>      Show information about function <name>.
  --rc <name>      Show information about class <name>.
  --re <name>      Show information about extension <name>.
  --ri <name>      Show configuration for extension <name>.

Command line options
Option Long Option Description
-a --interactive

Runs PHP interactively. For more information, see the Interactive shell section.

-b --bindpath

Bind Path for external FASTCGI Server mode (CGI only).

-C --no-chdir

Do not chdir to the script's directory (CGI only).

-q --no-header

Quiet-mode. Suppress HTTP header output (CGI only).

-T --timing

Measure execution time of script repeated count times (CGI only).

-c --php-ini

This option can either specify a directory where to look for php.ini or specify a custom INI file (which does not need to be named php.ini), e.g.:

$ php -c /custom/directory/ my_script.php

$ php -c /custom/directory/custom-file.ini my_script.php

If you don't specify this option, file is searched in default locations.

-n --no-php-ini

Ignore php.ini at all.

-d --define

This option allows you to set a custom value for any of the configuration directives allowed in php.ini. The syntax is:

 -d configuration_directive[=value]

# Omitting the value part will set the given configuration directive to "1"
$ php -d max_execution_time
        -r '$foo = ini_get("max_execution_time"); var_dump($foo);'
string(1) "1"

# Passing an empty value part will set the configuration directive to ""
php -d max_execution_time=
        -r '$foo = ini_get("max_execution_time"); var_dump($foo);'
string(0) ""

# The configuration directive will be set to anything passed after the '=' character
$  php -d max_execution_time=20
        -r '$foo = ini_get("max_execution_time"); var_dump($foo);'
string(2) "20"
$  php
        -d max_execution_time=doesntmakesense
        -r '$foo = ini_get("max_execution_time"); var_dump($foo);'
string(15) "doesntmakesense"

-e --profile-info

Activate the extended information mode, to be used by a debugger/profiler.

-f --file

Parses and executes the given filename to the -f option. This switch is optional and can be left out. Only providing the filename to execute is sufficient.


To pass arguments to scripts the first argument needs to be --, otherwise PHP will interperate them as PHP options.

-h and -? --help and --usage With this option, you can get information about the actual list of command line options and some one line descriptions about what they do.
-i --info This command line option calls phpinfo(), and prints out the results. If PHP is not working correctly, it is advisable to use php -i and see whether any error messages are printed out before or in place of the information tables. Beware that when using the CGI mode the output is in HTML and therefore quite huge.
-l --syntax-check

This option provides a convenient way to only perform a syntax check on the given PHP code. On success, the text No syntax errors detected in <filename> is written to standard output and the shell return code is 0. On failure, the text Errors parsing <filename> in addition to the internal parser error message is written to standard output and the shell return code is set to -1.

This option won't find fatal errors (like undefined functions). Use -f if you would like to test for fatal errors too.


This option does not work together with the -r option.

-m --modules

Example #1 Printing built in (and loaded) PHP and Zend modules

$ php -m
[PHP Modules]

[Zend Modules]

-r --run

This option allows execution of PHP right from within the command line. The PHP start and end tags (<?php and ?>) are not needed and will cause a parser error if present.


Care has to be taken when using this form of PHP to not collide with command line variable substitution done by the shell.

Example #2 Getting a syntax error when using double quotes

$ php -r "$foo = get_defined_constants();"
PHP Parse error:  syntax error, unexpected '=' in Command line code on line 1

Parse error: syntax error, unexpected '=' in Command line code on line 1

The problem here is that the sh/bash performs variable substitution even when using double quotes ". Since the variable $foo is unlikely to be defined, it expands to nothing which results in the code passed to PHP for execution actually reading:

$ php -r " = get_defined_constants();"

The correct way would be to use single quotes '. Variables in single-quoted strings are not expanded by sh/bash.

Example #3 Using single quotes to prevent the shell's variable substitution

$ php -r '$foo = get_defined_constants(); var_dump($foo);'
array(370) {

If you are using a shell different from sh/bash, you might experience further issues. Feel free to open a bug report at » One can still easily run into troubles when trying to get shell variables into the code or using backslashes for escaping. You've been warned.


-r is available in the CLI SAPI and not in the CGI SAPI.


This option is meant for a very basic stuff. Thus some configuration directives (e.g. auto_prepend_file and auto_append_file) are ignored in this mode.

-B --process-begin

PHP code to execute before processing stdin. Added in PHP 5.

-R --process-code

PHP code to execute for every input line. Added in PHP 5.

There are two special variables available in this mode: $argn and $argi. $argn will contain the line PHP is processing at that moment, while $argi will contain the line number.

-F --process-file

PHP file to execute for every input line. Added in PHP 5.

-E --process-end

PHP code to execute after processing the input. Added in PHP 5.

Example #4 Using the -B , -R and -E options to count the number of lines of a project.

$ find my_proj | php -B '$l=0;' -R '$l += count(@file($argn));' -E 'echo "Total Lines: $l\n";'
Total Lines: 37328

-s --syntax-highlight and --syntax-highlighting

Display colour syntax highlighted source.

This option uses the internal mechanism to parse the file and produces a HTML highlighted version of it and writes it to standard output. Note that all it does it to generate a block of <code> [...] </code> HTML tags, no HTML headers.


This option does not work together with the -r option.

-v --version

Example #5 Using -v to get the SAPI name and the version of PHP and Zend

$ php -v
PHP 5.3.1 (cli) (built: Dec 11 2009 19:55:07) 
Copyright (c) 1997-2009 The PHP Group
Zend Engine v2.3.0, Copyright (c) 1998-2009 Zend Technologies

-w --strip

Display source with stripped comments and whitespace.


This option does not work together with the -r option.

-z --zend-extension

Load Zend extension. If only a filename is given, PHP tries to load this extension from the current default library path on your system (usually specified /etc/ on Linux systems). Passing a filename with an absolute path information will not use the systems library search path. A relative filename with a directory information will tell PHP only to try to load the extension relative to the current directory.


Shows configuration file names and scanned directories. Available as of PHP 5.2.3.

Example #6 --ini example

$ php --ini
Configuration File (php.ini) Path: /usr/dev/php/5.2/lib
Loaded Configuration File:         /usr/dev/php/5.2/lib/php.ini
Scan for additional .ini files in: (none)
Additional .ini files parsed:      (none)

--rf --rfunction

Shows information about the given function or class method (e.g. number and name of the parameters). Available as of PHP 5.1.2.

This option is only available if PHP was compiled with Reflection support.

Example #7 basic --rf usage

$ php --rf var_dump
Function [ <internal> public function var_dump ] {

  - Parameters [2] {
    Parameter #0 [ <required> $var ]
    Parameter #1 [ <optional> $... ]

--rc --rclass

Show information about the given class (list of constants, properties and methods). Available as of PHP 5.1.2.

This option is only available if PHP was compiled with Reflection support.

Example #8 --rc example

$ php --rc Directory
Class [ <internal:standard> class Directory ] {

  - Constants [0] {

  - Static properties [0] {

  - Static methods [0] {

  - Properties [0] {

  - Methods [3] {
    Method [ <internal> public method close ] {

    Method [ <internal> public method rewind ] {

    Method [ <internal> public method read ] {

--re --rextension

Show information about the given extension (list of php.ini options, defined functions, constants and classes). Available as of PHP 5.1.2.

This option is only available if PHP was compiled with Reflection support.

Example #9 --re example

$ php --re json
Extension [ <persistent> extension #19 json version 1.2.1 ] {

  - Functions {
    Function [ <internal> function json_encode ] {
    Function [ <internal> function json_decode ] {

--ri --rextinfo

Shows the configuration information for the given extension (the same information that is returned by phpinfo()). Available as of PHP 5.2.2. The core configuration information are available using "main" as extension name.

Example #10 --ri example

$ php --ri date


date/time support => enabled
"Olson" Timezone Database Version => 2009.20
Timezone Database => internal
Default timezone => Europe/Oslo

Directive => Local Value => Master Value
date.timezone => Europe/Oslo => Europe/Oslo
date.default_latitude => 59.930972 => 59.930972
date.default_longitude => 10.776699 => 10.776699
date.sunset_zenith => 90.583333 => 90.583333
date.sunrise_zenith => 90.583333 => 90.583333


Options -rBRFEH, --ini and --r[fcei] are available only in CLI.

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