Basic Syntax

This chapter gives an overview of the syntax of “DocBlocks”. The precise effect of a tag including examples are provided in different chapters which are accessible via this document.

What is a DocBlock?

A DocBlock is a special type of comment that can provide verbose information about an element in your code.

The information provided in this type of comment can be used by developers to gain understanding of the function of a given element; but it is also used by IDEs to provide (among others) auto-completion and by phpDocumentor to generate API documentation.

This is an example of a DocBlock as it can be encountered:

  * This is the summary for a DocBlock.
  * This is the description for a DocBlock. This text may contain
  * multiple lines and even some _markdown_.
  * * Markdown style lists function too
  * * Just try this out once
  * The section after the description contains the tags; which provide
  * structured meta-data concerning the given element.
  * @author  Mike van Riel <[email protected]>
  * @since 1.0
  * @param int    $example  This is an example function/method parameter description.
  * @param string $example2 This is a second example.

Which elements can have a DocBlock

Structural Elements can all be preceded by a DocBlock. The following elements are counted as such:

  • namespace
  • require(_once)
  • include(_once)
  • class
  • interface
  • trait
  • function (including methods)
  • property
  • constant
  • variables, both local and global scope.

A more detailed description of what Structural Elements are and how DocBlocks apply to them can be found in the Definitions.


A DocBlock roughly exists of 3 sections:

  1. Summary; a one-liner which globally states the function of the documented element.
  2. Description; an extended description of the function of the documented element; may contain markup and inline tags.
  3. Tags; a series of descriptors for properties of this element; such as @param and @return.


The summary is used to give an impression of the function of the documented element. This can be used in overviews to allow the user to skim the documentation in search of the required template.

Summaries should always end in either a full stop, or 2 consecutive new lines. If it is not closed like this then any description will be considered as part of the summary.


A full stop means that the dot (.) needs to be succeeded by a new line. This way it is possible to mention abbreviations as “e.g.”, version numbers or other texts containing dots without ending the summary.


The description contains concise information about the function of the documented element. It is allowed, and encouraged, to use Markdown markup to apply styling.

The following list has examples of types of information that can be contained in a description:

  • Explanation of algorithms
  • Code examples
  • Array specification
  • Relation to other elements
  • License information (in the case of file DocBlocks)

Descriptions can also contain inline tags. These are special annotations that can be substituted for a specialized type of information (such as {@link}). Inline tags are always surrounded by braces.

A complete listing is provided in Inline tag reference.


Tags represent meta-data with which IDEs, external tooling or even the application itself know how to interpret an element.

phpDocumentor understands and uses (almost) all types supported by phpDocumentor. A complete listing is provided in Tag reference.

In addition phpDocumentor is able to understand, and link to, the annotations of Doctrine2.


Docblocks automatically inherit the Summary and Description of an overridden, extended or implemented element.

For example: if Class B extends Class A and it has an empty DocBlock defined, then it will have the same Summary and Description as Class A. No DocBlock means that the ‘parent’ DocBlock will not be overridden and an error will be thrown during parsing.

This form of inheritance applies to any element that can be overridden, such as Classes, Interfaces, Methods and Properties. Constants and Functions can not be overridden in and thus do not have this behavior.

Please note that you can also augment a Description with its parent’s Description using the {@inheritdoc} inline tag.

Each element also inherits a specific set of tags; which ones depend on the type of element.

The following applies:

Elements Inherited tags
Any @author, @version, @copyright
Classes and Interfaces @category, @package, @subpackage
Methods @param, @return, @throws
Properties @var

Please note that @subpackage tags are only inherited if the parent class has the same @package. Otherwise it is assumed that the parent class is part of a library which might have a different structure.