Introduction

$this refers to the current object, self refers to the current class. The class is the blueprint of the object. So you define a class, but you construct objects. So in other words, use self for static and $this->member for non-static members or methods.

Example

Correct Usage

Here is an example of correct usage of $this and self for non-static and static member variables:

<?php
class X {
    private $non_static_member = 1;
    private static $static_member = 2;

    function __construct() {
        echo $this->non_static_member . ' '
           . self::$static_member;
    }
}

new X();
?>

Incorrect Usage

Here is an example of incorrect usage of $this and self for non-static and static member variables:

<?php
class X {
    private $non_static_member = 1;
    private static $static_member = 2;

    function __construct() {
        echo self::$non_static_member . ' '
           . $this->static_member;
    }
}

new X();
?>

Polymorphism with $this

Here is an example of polymorphism with $this for member functions:

<?php
class X {
    function foo() {
        echo 'X::foo()';
    }

    function bar() {
        $this->foo();
    }
}

class Y extends X {
    function foo() {
        echo 'Y::foo()';
    }
}

$x = new Y();
$x->bar();
?>

Polymorphism with self

Here is an example of suppressing polymorphic behavior by using self for member functions:

<?php
class X {
    function foo() {
        echo 'X::foo()';
    }

    function bar() {
        self::foo();
    }
}

class Y extends X {
    function foo() {
        echo 'Y::foo()';
    }
}

$x = new Y();
$x->bar();
?>

Conclusion

The idea is that $this->foo() calls the foo() member function of whatever is the exact type of the current object. If the object is of type X, it thus calls X::foo(). If the object is of type Y, it calls Y::foo(). But with self::foo(), X::foo() is always called.

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