Short List Syntax

The list() statement allows us to assign variables as if they were an array:

$data = ['foo', 'bar', 'barbara'];

list($first, $second, $third) = $data;


Executing the code shown above will print the output shown below:

string(3) "foo"
string(3) "bar"
string(7) "barbara"

PHP 5.4 introduced the short array syntax, allowing the construction of arrays using the [] notation instead of using array(). The fact that list() still had to be used for unpacking array elements into variables was considered unesthetic by some.

The syntax shown below, which is supported as of PHP 7.1, is equivalent to the one shown above:

$data = ['foo', 'bar', 'barbara'];

[$first, $second, $third] = $data;