Built In Types: Tuples

Suppose we wish to have a function return multiple values. We can do that by using a tuple containing two or more elements. A tuple is an ordered set of one or more elements, which can have different types. The number of elements in a particular tuple is fixed when that tuple is created. After a tuple has been created, no elements can be added or removed. A tuple is a mutable value type. This means that when you hand a tuple to a function or assign it to a local variable a logical copy is made. You can change the values at a given index by assigning using the subscript notation. This will change the type of the value stored in the variable accordingly when needed. However you can not assign to an index that did not exist when the tuple was created.

Consider the case in which we want to have a pair of related values, one a string, the other an integer. For example:

$v = tuple("apples", 25);
function process_pair((string, int) $pair): void { ... }
function get_next_pair(): (string, int) { ... }

A tuple value has the form of a comma-separated list of values delimited with parentheses and preceded by tuple, as in tuple("apples", 25) above. As we can quickly deduce, that tuple has type tuple of two elements, in the order string and int, and that is the type of the argument expected by function process_pair, and returned by function get_next_pair.

Note carefully that the tuple values tuple("apples", 25) and tuple(25, "apples") have different and incompatible types! Of course, tuple("apples", 25) and tuple("peaches", 33) have the same type. [Indeed, tuple("horses", 3) has the same type as well; there is nothing fruit- or animal-specific about this tuple type.]

A tuple can be indexed with the subscript operator ([]); however, the index value must be an integer constant whose value is in the range of element indices. The index of the first element is zero, with subsequent elements having index values one more than their predecessor:

$t = tuple(10, true, 2.3);
echo "\$t[2] = >" . $t[2] . "<";  // outputs "$t[2] = >2.3<"
$t[0] = 99;                       // change 10 to 99

Here is a more exotic example of a type involve a tuple:

?(int, (string, float))

This declares a nullable type for a tuple containing an int and a tuple, which in turn, contains a string and a float.

For non-trivial tuple types, it can be cumbersome to write out the complete type. Fortunately, Hack provides type-aliasing via newtype (and type). For example:

newtype Point = (float, float);

function create_point(float $x, float $y): Point {
  return tuple($x, $y);

function distance(Point $p1, Point $p2): float {
  $dx = $p1[0] - $p2[0];
  $dy = $p1[1] - $p2[1];
  return sqrt($dx * $dx + $dy * $dy);
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