PHP: Validating Numeric Values and Digits

By  on  

I've inherited a lot of code where the previous developer used PHP's is_numeric() and it's gotten them into trouble. There's a big difference between validating that a value is numeric and validating that a value is all digits. Here's how to validate the two:

/* numeric, decimal passes */
function validate_numeric($variable) {
	return is_numeric($variable);

/* digits only, no dots */
function is_digits($element) {
	return !preg_match ("/[^0-9]/", $element);

A customer number, for example, should not have any decimal points but using is_numeric() would let a decimal value pass the test. Don't be this guy!

Recent Features

  • By
    Create a CSS Cube

    CSS cubes really showcase what CSS has become over the years, evolving from simple color and dimension directives to a language capable of creating deep, creative visuals.  Add animation and you've got something really neat.  Unfortunately each CSS cube tutorial I've read is a bit...

  • By
    JavaScript Promise API

    While synchronous code is easier to follow and debug, async is generally better for performance and flexibility. Why "hold up the show" when you can trigger numerous requests at once and then handle them when each is ready?  Promises are becoming a big part of the JavaScript world...

Incredible Demos


  1. Why don’t you use ctype_digit() instead of this preg_match()? It’s faster =)

  2. \d is shorthand for [0-9]

  3. @Mark: Damnit Sanborn — I’m going to make you write a regex tutorial for me! :)

  4. why not just check if it’s an integer and if it’s a string of numbers just check if intval($num) == $num ? I tend to stray away from regex if possible.

  5. Brian

    You could also use PHP’s built-in function ctype_digit() which will return true only if all characters in the value it is passed are numeric. i.e. 1234 would return true, 1,234 returns false, 1.234 returns false.

  6. I have definitely have seen people misuse the is_numeric function as well.

    @david – a regex tutorial would be great. You can always learn something new…

  7. Rikki

    Why would you create a new function that returns is_numeric, given that your new function name is longer than typing ‘is_numeric’ anyway?

  8. You can use is_int() to find out if it’s an integer instead of a regexp or having to compare using intval() (as suggested above). The only catch with this is that is must fit within the integer type range so you may still need to use a regexp if it’s a really long number.

    And I’m a little confused why you’d wrap is_numeric() inside another function call when all the wrapper function does is return the value from is_numeric()

  9. Alex

    Josh, you can use the ctype php function :)

    (why my older post were deleted?)

  10. David

    Actually you can use is_int() if your using the is_* functions. However Alex is right and the ctype functions are better.

  11. Elkalidi Abdelkader

    to check numeric variable and length of variable = 4 numbers:


    exemple :

    $year = preg_match("#^[0-9]{4}$#",$variable) ? $variable : date("Y");

    You can remplace {4} by {1,4} to check if variable is between 1 and 4 numbers

  12. endryou

    One important detail about ctype_digit: it accepts string as parameter.
    For example:
    ctype_digit(‘5’) === true, but ctype_digit(5) === false.
    So it’s safer to write ctype_digit((string)$my_fancy_var) but again not enough for nulls,
    booleans, objects or resources.

  13. Doesn’t ‘/[0-9]+/’ equate to contains or or more consecutive digits. For all, I think you probably need ‘/^[0-9]+$/’ or more succinctly ‘/^\d+$/’.

    Kudos to Elkalidi Abdelkader for using them but it doesn’t hurt to be explicit.

  14. For those interested in finding a valid date, I found an issue where PHP errors would be thrown with Checkdate(m,d,y) so I did this

    if (empty($_POST['theyear'])) { //For me this was optional so for validating I allowed the field to be blank...
    		$yearcheck = '2000'; //...but would need to still enter a year into the check (any year will work but I picked one that included leap years)
    		}else//there is a data in the year field
    		if (is_numeric($_POST['theyear']) //Is it a number?
    		and strpos('.', $_POST['theyear'])==false //Is there a decimal in the number?
    		and strlen($_POST['theyear'])==4) { //Is the number 4 digits long?
    		$yearcheck = $_POST['theyear']; //Passed the test, checked this date
    		}else //didn't pass the test so....
    		$yearcheck = '0000'; //this year will always be valid on the PHP side BUT will cause checkdate() to always return false.
    		if (checkdate($_POST['themonth'], $_POST['thedate'], $yearcheck)==false //checks if the month date year combination is right...
    		and !empty($_POST['grr_group_year'])) //...but only if we are entering a date to begin with
    		$messages[] = __('Date is not valid!', 'my_page'); //My custom warning (at first I had it return the little poem for the number of dates in a month)

    I realize it is kind of off topic but if you combine strpos for '.' and is_numeric() it should work the same.

  15. EDIT: grr_group_year should be theyear. I missed that when I stripped my own code out of my example.

Wrap your code in <pre class="{language}"></pre> tags, link to a GitHub gist, JSFiddle fiddle, or CodePen pen to embed!