PHP JSON Encode and Decode

by Vincy. Last modified on June 2nd, 2021.

JSON encode decode is one of the most frequently required operations. In this article, we are going to see how to encode and decode JSON using PHP. PHP provides built-in functions to perform these two operations. Those are,

  1. json_encode()
  2. json_decode()

In this article, we are going to learn about these functions with suitable examples. Apart from these functions, a complete guide to handle JSON with PHP will be useful for you to know more about PHP JSON.

Encoding and Decoding

Encoding and decoding is the pair of operations which is most importantly used in many application programming. Previously, we have seen about PHP functions url_encode() and url_decode() to perform the encoding and decoding a given URL.

Encoding is used to bundle data with respect to a particular format. This process will be required to preserve data consistency. Decoding is a reverse process which reverts encoded data back to its original form.


In PHP, json_encode() is used to convert PHP supported data type into JSON formatted string to be returned as a result of JSON encode operation. This function accepts the following set of arguments.

  • Data to be encoded.
  • Options with JSON encode constants to reflect effects on encoding behavior.
  • Depth limit for performing recursive encoding with nested levels of input.

Predefined JSON Constants

For PHP JSON encodes, the following list of constants will be used for the options parameter of json_encode() function.

    • JSON_HEX_TAG – Used to encode HTML content by replacing < and > symbol with \u003C and \u003E.
    • JSON_HEX_AMP – Used to encode data by replacing ampersand symbol (&) with \u0026.
    • JSON_HEX_APOS – encode apostrophe (‘) with \u0027.
    • JSON_HEX_QUOT – converts double quotes (“) into \u0022.
    • JSON_FORCE_OBJECT – Using this, json_encode will return an object for given input data except for associative array.
    • JSON_NUMERIC_CHECK – PHP JSON encode function will return numbers as a result of encoding given a number with string data type.
    • JSON_BIGINT_AS_STRING – This constant is used to convert the log integer value as a string.
    • JSON_PRETTY_PRINT – pretty print is used for adding white space with the JSON formatted data.
    • JSON_UNESCAPED_SLASHES – It prevents from escaping slashes (/).
    • JSON_UNESCAPED_UNICODE – It prevents from escaping Unicode characters.

Example: PHP json_encode()

Now, it’s time to see an example PHP program to perform JSON encode. So, the following program handles few json_encode() function invoke with some of the available JSON encode constants as its option parameter.

$input_array = array("zero","one","two");
//returns ["zero","one","two"] 
$str_json_format = json_encode($input_array);
print "JSON Formatted String:" . $str_json_format;
//returns {"0":"zero","1":"one","2":"two"}
$obj_json_format = json_encode($input_array, JSON_FORCE_OBJECT);
print "<br/><br/>JSON Object:" . $obj_json_format;
//returns [ "zero", "one", "two" ]
$strJsonFormat_with_space = json_encode($input_array, JSON_PRETTY_PRINT);
print "<br/><br/>JSON Formatted String with white space:" . $strJsonFormat_with_space;


      • PHP json_encode() is used to convert any type of data except PHP resource data.
      • While using JSON_FORCE_OBJECT on encoding PHP array value, then each array element will be added to an index even though if input array doesn’t have any index.

Decoding JSON Data using PHP

This is the reverse operation of JSON encode, obviously used to convert JSON encoded data into its original PHP data type from where it is encoded initially.

For that, the second method json_decode() we have listed at the beginning of this article, will be used. This function accepts four arguments as listed below.

      • JSON formatted string to be decoded.
      • The Boolean value set based on which an associative array will be returned, if it is true.
      • depth limit.
      • options.

The third and fourth arguments are same as we have seen for json_encode(). The default value for depth limit is 512. And, the PHP supported constantly for option parameter of this function is, JSON_BIGINT_AS_STRING, which is used to convert long integers into float data.

Example: json_decode()

With the above PHP example program, we need to append the following lines.

$str_json_array_decoded = json_decode($str_json_format);
print "<br/><br/>Resultant decoded array from JSON array:<br/>";
print "<PRE>";
print "</PRE>";

$str_objJson_decoded = json_decode($obj_json_format);
print "<br/><br/>Resultant decoded object data from JSON object:<br/>";
print "<PRE>";
print "</PRE>";

$str_jsonAry_decoded = json_decode($obj_json_format,true);
print "<br/><br/>Resultant decoded array data from JSON object:<br/>";
print "<PRE>";
print "</PRE>";

After that, on executing this code, te following output will be returned to the browser.

Resultant decoded array from JSON array:
    [0] => zero
    [1] => one
    [2] => two
Resultant decoded object data from JSON object:
stdClass Object
    [0] => zero
    [1] => one
    [2] => two
Resultant decoded array data from JSON object:
    [0] => zero
    [1] => one
    [2] => two


      • While passing associative array or object with key and value pair for json_decode(), the key value should be enclosed in double quotes. Otherwise, json_decode() will return NULL.

Download PHP JSON Encode Decode Source Code

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