PHP, which stands for Hypertext Preprocessor, is a widely-used, open-source scripting language designed for web development to produce dynamic web pages. It can be embedded into HTML, making it a popular choice for web developers looking to add interactive content to websites.

Syntax of PHP

PHP syntax borrows elements from C, Java, and Perl with a couple of unique PHP-specific features. The code is executed on the server, generating HTML which is then sent to the client. The client receives the result of the executed script, without any access to the code itself.

A PHP file typically contains HTML tags, PHP scripts, and sometimes JavaScript, with the PHP portions enclosed within <?php and ?> tags.

History of PHP

PHP was created by Rasmus Lerdorf in 1994, initially as a simple set of Common Gateway Interface (CGI) binaries written in the C programming language. Originally used for tracking visits to his online resume, he named the suite of scripts “Personal Home Page Tools,” more frequently referenced as “PHP Tools.” Over the years, PHP has evolved to become a powerful tool for server-side programming.

Role of PHP in Web Development

PHP is primarily used to create dynamic content on web pages, interact with databases, create session management systems, build entire e-commerce sites, and more. It’s known for its flexibility, ease of integration with various databases (like MySQL, Oracle, and PostgreSQL), and compatibility with different operating systems.

PHP Script Example

A basic “Hello World” script in PHP looks like this:

<!DOCTYPE html>
<title>PHP Test</title>

<?php echo “<p>Hello World!</p>”; ?>


In this example, a PHP script is embedded within an HTML document. The <?php ... ?> tags indicate that the enclosed code is PHP. The echo statement is used to output the “Hello World!” message as part of the webpage.

Enhancing the “Hello World” Script with PHP

To illustrate a dynamic feature using PHP, let’s create a script that displays the current server time every time the page is refreshed.

<!DOCTYPE html>
<title>PHP Test</title>

<h1>Hello World!</h1>
<p>This is my first PHP page.</p>
<p>Current Server Time: <?php echo date(‘Y-m-d H:i:s’); ?></p>


This script uses PHP’s built-in date() function to get the current date and time from the server, formatted as “Year-Month-Day Hour:Minute:Second.” Every time the page is refreshed, the displayed time updates, demonstrating a simple dynamic feature enabled by PHP.

PHP is a key server-side scripting language in web development, enabling developers to create dynamic and interactive web pages. Its ease of use, efficiency, and strong community support have made it a go-to choice for web developers around the world. By integrating PHP into HTML, developers can build web applications that can perform complex functions, from generating dynamic page content to handling data from forms and controlling user-access. Understanding the basics of PHP and how to embed PHP scripts into HTML is a fundamental skill for any aspiring web developer.

In PHP, “tags” are used to delineate PHP code within an HTML document, signaling to the PHP engine when to start and stop interpreting code. Beyond these fundamental tags, PHP uses a variety of functions, statements, and operators to perform operations. Here’s a list of the most commonly used PHP tags and some key constructs:

PHP Opening and Closing Tags

  1. Standard PHP Tags: The most common way to start and end PHP scripts.
    // PHP code goes here
  2. Short Open Tag: Shorter way to open PHP tags, but it must be enabled via the short_open_tag php.ini directive (not recommended for portability).
    // PHP code goes here
  3. Echo Short Tag: A convenient way to output data. It’s essentially a shorthand for <?php echo ... ?>.
    <?= $variable; ?>
  4. Script Tags: Less common, an alternative way to denote PHP code (primarily used in older scripts).
    <script language="php">
    // PHP code goes here

Commonly Used PHP Constructs

  • Variables: Start with a $ sign, followed by the name of the variable.
    $variableName = "value";
  • Echo Statement: Used to output one or more strings.
    echo "Hello, World!";
  • Print Statement: Similar to echo, but it can only take one argument and returns a value.
    print "Hello, World!";
  • If Statement: Used for conditional execution of code.
    if ($condition) {
    // code to be executed if condition is true
  • For Loop: Used to loop through a block of code a specified number of times.
    for ($i = 0; $i < 10; $i++) {
    // code to be executed for each iteration
  • Foreach Loop: Used to loop through each key/value pair in an array.
    foreach ($array as $value) {
    // code to be executed for each element
  • While Loop: Executes a block of code as long as the specified condition is true.
    while ($condition) {
    // code to be executed
  • Functions: A block of statements that can be repeatedly called.
    function functionName() {
    // code to be executed
  • Arrays: Used to store multiple values in a single variable.
    $array = array("value1", "value2", "value3");
  • Associative Arrays: Arrays that use named keys to identify their values.
    $assocArray = array("key1" => "value1", "key2" => "value2");
  • Superglobals: Predefined global variables in PHP that make accessing information such as form data, cookies, sessions, etc., easier.
    • $_GET
    • $_POST
    • $_SESSION
    • $_COOKIE
    • $_FILES
    • $_SERVER
  • Try and Catch: Used for exception handling in PHP.
    try {
    // Code that may throw an exception
    } catch (Exception $e) {
    // Code to handle the exception

These tags and constructs form the foundation of PHP scripting, enabling developers to build dynamic web applications and websites with server-side logic.