How to Get a File Extension in PHP

When working with files in PHP, it's often necessary to retrieve the file extension.

File extensions are essential for identifying the type of data contained in a file and for determining how to process or display it.

In this article, we'll explore several methods to get the file extension in PHP.

1. Using the "pathinfo" Function

PHP provides a built-in function called pathinfo that allows you to easily extract information from a file path, including the file extension.

Here's how you can use pathinfo to get the file extension:

$filePath = 'example.txt';
$pathInfo = pathinfo($filePath);
$extension = $pathInfo['extension'];

echo $extension; // Output: "txt"

In this example:

  1. We have a variable, $filePath, containing the path to the file, including the filename and its extension.
  2. We use the pathinfo function to extract information about the file, including the file extension.
  3. The pathinfo function returns an associative array containing various information, and we access the extension element to get the file extension.

This method is simple and effective, making it a popular choice for retrieving file extensions.

2. Using "strrchr" and "substr"

You can also use the combination of the strrchr and substr functions to get the file extension from a file path. Here's an example:

$filePath = 'example.txt';
$extension = substr(strrchr($filePath, '.'), 1);

echo $extension; // Output: "txt"

In this example:

  1. We have the variable $filePath, which contains the file path.
  2. We use the strrchr function to find the last occurrence of a period (.), which is commonly used to separate the filename from the file extension. The result will be the file extension and everything after the period.
  3. Next, we use the substr function to remove the period from the result by extracting the substring starting from the second character (index 1) to the end.

This method is a bit more concise and can be useful when you need to quickly extract the file extension without additional information.

3. Using Regular Expressions

If you're working with more complex file paths and want to ensure you're getting the extension, you can use regular expressions.

Here's an example:

$filePath = 'folder/subfolder/example.txt';
$pattern = '/\.([a-z0-9]+)$/i';

preg_match($pattern, $filePath, $matches);
$extension = $matches[1];

echo $extension; // Output: "txt"

In this example:

  1. We have a variable, $filePath, which contains the file path.
  2. We define a regular expression pattern that matches a period (.) followed by one or more alphanumeric characters at the end of the string. The $ symbol denotes the end of the string, ensuring we get the extension at the end of the path.
  3. We use preg_match to search for the pattern in the file path and store the matches in the $matches array.
  4. The extension is retrieved from the first capturing group (enclosed in parentheses) in the regular expression, which is indexed as $matches[1].

This method is flexible and can be adapted to various file path formats.


Retrieving the file extension is a common operation when working with files in PHP. Whether you use the pathinfo function, a combination of strrchr and substr, or regular expressions, you can easily extract the file extension from a file path.

The method you choose depends on your specific requirements and the complexity of the file paths you're working with.