Deep dive into WP_User class in WordPress

This article provides a detailed overview of the WP_User class in WordPress. The WP_User class represents a user object, providing access to user-related data and functionalities within the WordPress site. It encapsulates user attributes and methods, allowing developers to interact with and retrieve information about a specific user, such as their ID, username, email, roles, and capabilities. It also facilitates user-specific operations and customizations within WordPress sites or applications.

The WP_User class constructor

The WP_User class accepts the following parameters:

  • $id (int)– the ID of the user
  • $name (string) – the username of the user
  • $site_id (int) – optional site ID in multi-site installations, it defaults to current site

You can initialize the WP_User class by setting the user ID or a user name. If both the $id and $name options are provided, the $name option will be ignored.

Instantiating WP_User with a user ID

To create an instance of WP_User class by user ID, simply pass the user ID as the first parameter to the constructor:

$user_id = 123;
$user = new WP_User($user_id);

When the WP_User object is created, WordPress will query the database to find the user with ID 123. If the user exists, this object will contain all the information and methods associated with the user represented by the ID 123.

Instantiating WP_User with a username

You can initialize the WP_User class with a username by setting the user ID parameter to 0 and passing the username as a second parameter.

$username = 'john_doe';
$user = new WP_User(0, $username);

Checking if a user exists upon WP_User initialization

When initializing the WP_User class, it is important to check if a user exists with the given user ID/username. In this way, you can prevent unexpected behavior and errors further down your code when the user does not exist. You can do that by using the exists() method on the $user object:

$user_id = 123;
$user = new WP_User($user_id);
if ($user->exists()){
  // user with ID 123 exists

Functions returning WP_User object

In addition to instantiating the WP_User class directly, you might have to work with WP_User objects when other functions or methods return them. For example the get_user_by() function returns a WP_User object on success:

$user = get_user_by('id', 123); // returns a WP_User object

Some of the most common functions that return WP_User are:

  • wp_get_current_user()
  • get_user_by()
  • get_userdata()
  • get_users() – returns an array of WP_User objects

WP_User class properties

The WP_User class in WordPress encapsulates essential properties that store user-related data within the WordPress site. These properties contain crucial information such as user ID, username, email, roles, capabilities, and additional metadata.

The available properties of the WP_User class are, along with an explanation of what each of them means:

  • ID – the ID of the user
  • user_login – the username (user login) of the user
  • user_passhashed password
  • user_nicename – URL sanitized version of username
  • user_email – the email of the user
  • user_url – the website of the user
  • user_registeredregistration date
  • user_activation_key – this is a key that is used for authenticity of a password reset request
  • display_name – the public display name of the user
  • roles – user roles, returned as an array
  • caps – user capabilities that have been assigned to the user outside those inherited from their roles. Returned as an associative array where the key is the capability name and value is a boolean representing whether the user has that capability.

The properties are directly assigned to the WP_User object, here is an example of retrieving the ID, username, and email of the current user:

$user = wp_get_current_user();
$user_id = $user->ID;
$user_name = $user->user_login;
$user_email = $user->user_email;

Retrieving user meta via class properties

In addition to the above-mentioned properties, all user meta values can be accessed directly as properties of the WP_User object. Behind the scenes, this uses the __get() magic method, which loads meta values based on dynamic property names.

For example, to load the user’s first name and last name fields, which WordPress stores as user meta with the keys first_name and last_name respectively, you can use the following code snippet:

$user = new WP_User($user_id);
echo $user->first_name;
echo $user->last_name;

In the same way, you can load values of custom meta keys. For example, if you need to retrieve a meta value for the meta key “phone_number”, you can access that via the “phone_number” property of the WP_User object.

$user = new WP_User($user_id);
echo $user->phone_number;

An empty string will be returned if no value is stored for the given meta key.

WP_User class methods

This section delves into the practical usage of WP_User class methods in WordPress development. These methods efficiently retrieve, modify, and manage user attributes, enabling various user-related operations within WordPress.

Gain Valuable Insights From Your WordPress User Data

Methods for retrieving user data and meta

  • get() – the get() method is another way that can be used to load user data. This method can load user properties, core meta data and custom user meta data. For example:
$user = new WP_User($user_id);
echo $user->get('user_login'); // get username
echo $user->get('first_name'); // get first name
echo $user->get('phone_number'); // get custom meta value stored with key "phone_number"
  • has_prop() can be used to check if the user object has a given property or meta key set. This method uses the __isset() magic method behind the scenes.
$user = new WP_User($user_id);
$user->has_prop('user_login'); // true
$user->has_prop('first_name'); // true
$user->has_prop('inexisting'); // false

Role methods

The WP_User class provides method to manage the roles of a user fully. These methods include:

  • add_role( string $role ) – adds a role to the user
  • remove_role( string $role ) – removes a role from the user
  • set_role( string $role ) – removes existing roles and sets the role passed as a parameter

The following example illustrates how to manage to use these methods to manage the roles of an individual user:

$user = new WP_User($user_id);
print_r($user->roles); // defaults ['subscriber']

// add a role
print_r($user->roles);// ['subscriber', 'member']

// remove a role
print_r($user->roles); // ['subscriber']

// set role
print_r($user->roles); // ['member']

Capability methods

Similarly to roles, you can also manage the capabilities of a user using the WP_User class capability methods:

  • add_cap( string $cap, bool $grant = true ) – add capability to the user. This method accepts an additional $grant parameter which defines whether to grant access to this capability to the user. The default value is true, so you can omit this parameter when you intend to grant access to this capability. This method is persistent, meaning that the new capability will be stored in the database.
  • remove_cap( string $cap ) – remove capability from the user. This method also persists the changes in the database.
  • remove_all_caps() – removes all capabilities from the user

Here are examples of adding and removing capabilities to a user object:

$user_id = 123;
$user = new WP_User($user_id);
print_r($user->caps); // ['subscriber' => true]

// add the "edit-posts" capability
print_r($user->caps);// ['subscriber' => true, 'edit_posts' => true]

// remove the "edit-posts" capability
print_r($user->caps);  // ['subscriber' => true]
  • has_cap( string $cap, mixed $args ) – this method can be used to check whether the user has a given capability.

It is most commonly used by passing the capability name parameter only:

$user->has_cap( 'edit_posts' );

However, in some cases, it can be invoked with additional parameters. For example, if you need to check if a user can edit a specific post, you can invoke the method like this:

$user->has_cap( 'edit_post', $post->ID );
  • get_role_caps() – this method returns a list of all the user’s capabilities, including those that are inherited from the user role


In summary, exploring the WP_User class revealed its crucial role in managing user-related tasks in WordPress. Understanding its properties and methods helps developers handle user data, roles, and interactions effectively. Mastering this class allows better customization and management of user information, enhancing WordPress websites and applications for improved user experiences.