(PHP 4 >= 4.0.4, PHP 5, PHP 7, PHP 8)

is_null Finds whether a variable is null


is_null(mixed $value): bool

Finds whether the given variable is null.



The variable being evaluated.

Return Values

Returns true if value is null, false otherwise.


Example #1 is_null() example



$foo = NULL;
var_dump(is_null($inexistent), is_null($foo));

Notice: Undefined variable: inexistent in ...

See Also

  • The null type
  • isset() - Determine if a variable is declared and is different than null
  • is_bool() - Finds out whether a variable is a boolean
  • is_numeric() - Finds whether a variable is a number or a numeric string
  • is_float() - Finds whether the type of a variable is float
  • is_int() - Find whether the type of a variable is integer
  • is_string() - Find whether the type of a variable is string
  • is_object() - Finds whether a variable is an object
  • is_array() - Finds whether a variable is an array

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User Contributed Notes 9 notes

15 years ago
Micro optimization isn't worth it.

You had to do it ten million times to notice a difference, a little more than 2 seconds

$a===NULL; Took: 1.2424390316s
is_null($a); Took: 3.70693397522s

difference = 2.46449494362
difference/10,000,000 = 0.000000246449494362

The execution time difference between ===NULL and is_null is less than 250 nanoseconds. Go optimize something that matters.
george at fauxpanels dot com
15 years ago
See how php parses different values. $var is the variable.

$var        =    NULL    ""    0    "0"    1

strlen($var)    =    0    0    1    1    1
is_null($var)    =    TRUE    FALSE    FALSE    FALSE    FALSE
$var == ""    =    TRUE    TRUE    TRUE    FALSE    FALSE
!$var        =    TRUE    TRUE    TRUE    TRUE    FALSE
!is_null($var)    =    FALSE    TRUE    TRUE    TRUE    TRUE
$var != ""    =    FALSE    FALSE    FALSE    TRUE    TRUE
$var        =    FALSE    FALSE    FALSE    FALSE    TRUE

contact dot 01834e2c at renegade334 dot me dot uk
9 years ago
In PHP 7 (phpng), is_null is actually marginally faster than ===, although the performance difference between the two is far smaller.

PHP 5.5.9
is_null - float(2.2381200790405)
===     - float(1.0024659633636)
=== faster by ~100ns per call

PHP 7.0.0-dev (built: May 19 2015 10:16:06)
is_null - float(1.4121870994568)
===     - float(1.4577329158783)
is_null faster by ~5ns per call
2 years ago
A quick test in 2022 on PHP 8.1 confirms there is still no need to micro-optimize NULL checks:


// Comparison Operator
$before = microtime(true);
$var = null;
for (
$i=0 ; $i<1000000000 ; $i++) {
$var === null) {}
$after = microtime(true);
'    ===: ' . ($after - $before) . " seconds\n";

// Function
$before = microtime(true);
$var = null;
for (
$i=0 ; $i<1000000000 ; $i++) {
is_null($var)) {}
$after = microtime(true);
'is_null: ' . ($after - $before) . " seconds\n";

//     ===: 4.1487579345703 seconds
// is_null: 4.1316878795624 seconds
ai dot unstmann at combase dot de
16 years ago
For what I realized is that  is_null($var)  returns exactly the opposite of  isset($var) , except that is_null($var) throws a notice if $var hasn't been set yet.

the following will prove that:


= array(null, true, false, 0, 1, '', "\0", "unset");

$quirks as $var) {
    if (
$var === "unset") unset($var);

is_null($var) ? 1 : 0;
    echo isset(
$var) ? 1 : 0;


this will print out something like:

10    // null
01    // true
01    // false
01    // 0
01    // 1
01    // ''
01    // "\0"
Notice:  Undefined variable: var in /srv/www/htdocs/sandbox/null/nulltest.php on line 8
10    // (unset)

For the major quirky types/values is_null($var) obviously always returns the opposite of isset($var), and the notice clearly points out the faulty line with the is_null() statement. You might want to examine the return value of those functions in detail, but since both are specified to return boolean types there should be no doubt.

A second look into the PHP specs tells that is_null() checks whether a value is null or not. So, you may pass any VALUE to it, eg. the result of a function.
isset() on the other hand is supposed to check for a VARIABLE's existence, which makes it a language construct rather than a function. Its sole porpuse lies in that checking. Passing anything else will result in an error.

Knowing that, allows us to draw the following unlikely conclusion:

isset() as a language construct is way faster, more reliable and powerful than is_null() and should be prefered over is_null(), except for when you're directly passing a function's result, which is considered bad programming practice anyways.
strrev xc.noxeh@ellij
16 years ago
$var===NULL is much faster than is_null($var) (with the same result)

I did some benchmarking with 10 million iterations:

isset($a); Took: 1.71841216087s
$a==NULL; Took: 1.27205181122s
$a===NULL; Took: 1.2424390316s
is_null($a); Took: 3.70693397522s
isset($a); Took: 1.15165400505s
$a==NULL; Took: 1.41901302338s
$a===NULL; Took: 1.21655392647s
is_null($a); Took: 3.78501200676s
isset($a); Took: 1.51441502571s
$a==NULL; Took: 16.5414860249s
$a===NULL; Took: 16.1273870468s
is_null($a); Took: 23.1918480396s

Please note, that isset is only included because it gives a good performance in any case; HOWEVER isset is NOT the same, or the opposite.
But you might be able to use isset() instead of null-checking.

You should not use is_null, except when you need a callback-function, or for conformity with is_int, is_float, etc.
normadize (a) gmail (d) com
11 years ago
Using === NULL instead of is_null(), is actually useful in loaded server scenarios where you have hundreds or thousands of requests per second. Saving microseconds on a lot of "simple" operations in the entire PHP execution chain usually results in being able to serve more pages per second at the same speed, or lowering your cpu usage. People usually write very bad and slow code.
etimjoshua4 at gmail dot com
3 years ago
I've found that for HTTP requests such as POST, is_null isn't the most reliable choice for checking if empty.

Try using

if(trim($var) == ""){
    // do something


I think the request does something to the input that makes it definitely not NULL.
michael at cannonbose dot com
20 years ago
Regarding avoidance of NULLs in your MySQL queries, why not use  IS NULL and IS NOT NULL in your WHERE clauses.

FROM someDatabase
WHERE someAttribute IS NOT NULL


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