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Last updated: Thu, 21 Aug 2003

XXXIV. Gettext


The gettext functions implement an NLS (Native Language Support) API which can be used to internationalize your PHP applications. Please see the gettext documentation for your system for a thorough explanation of these functions or view the docs at


To use these functions you must download and install the GNU gettext package from


To include GNU gettext support in your PHP build you must add the option --with-gettext[=DIR] where DIR is the gettext install directory, defaults to /usr/local.

Note to Win32 Users: In order to enable this module on a Windows environment, you must copy gnu_gettext.dll from the DLL folder of the PHP/Win32 binary package to the SYSTEM32 folder of your windows machine. (Ex: C:\WINNT\SYSTEM32 or C:\WINDOWS\SYSTEM32). Starting with PHP 4.2.3 the name changed to libintl-1.dll, this requires also iconv.dll to be copied.

Runtime Configuration

This extension has no configuration directives defined in php.ini.

Resource Types

This extension has no resource types defined.

Predefined Constants

This extension has no constants defined.

Table of Contents
bind_textdomain_codeset --  Specify the character encoding in which the messages from the DOMAIN message catalog will be returned
bindtextdomain -- Sets the path for a domain
dcgettext -- Overrides the domain for a single lookup
dcngettext -- Plural version of dcgettext
dgettext -- Override the current domain
dngettext -- Plural version of dgettext
gettext -- Lookup a message in the current domain
ngettext -- Plural version of gettext
textdomain -- Sets the default domain

add a note add a note User Contributed Notes
dev.php at
27-Aug-2003 09:35
Check your

/etc/locales.aliases for "english en_GB.ISO-8859-1" (mentioned before)

and your

/etc/locales.gen for en_GB.ISO-8859-15 ISO-8859-15

I'm not sure if only this entry solved the problem. In my case this entry was made by an dpkg-reconfigure locales (debian), where i created the locales.

Translation only works with de_GE@euro and  en_GB.ISO-8859-15 (first column in you locales.gen)
wouter at grep dot be
14-Aug-2003 02:28
Of course, translation is only interesting if you provide the user with the language and encoding he asks for. Since there's part of the HTTP protocol that allows you to specify that, it's nice if one can use that information to pick the 'right' translation out of the ones you have available.

I wrote something that does just that -- it parses the 'Accept-Language' and 'Accept-Charset' HTTP/1.1 headers, and tells you which one the user prefers out of a list you provide. You can download it at

Note that even if the user's browser may support this, the user may not know about it; as such, it's probably good practice not to remove links to other-languaged versions, so that people can still get a version of your site in another language if they so prefer.
Chris Lee
30-Jul-2003 04:11
For windows env:

PHP >= 4.2.3 requires libintl-1.dll is not enough, it may also requrie iconv.dll.

I tested on version 4.3.2
14-Jul-2003 03:15
I had a lot of problems getting gettext to work (RedHat 7.3). After reading ALL the comments in this manual, I got it to work OK.

In summary, take care that:

1) You use a full locale in the setlocale()
2) Your language_country exists in the /usr/share/locale/locale.alias
3) It seems that Apache needs to be restarted (a "graceful" did the trick for me)
4) Your .mo files must be named after the domain

My code:

$language = "es_ES";
$locale = setlocale(LC_ALL, $language);

$gettext_domain = 'messages';
bindtextdomain($gettext_domain, "/full/path/to/locale");
18-Jun-2003 08:15
Even though in some cases setlocale() may require a country code in addition to the language code this does not mean that it is required for gettext.

If setlocale() is set to either es_ES or es_MX gettext() will still get the text from a po file in the 'es' folder.

It probably is not a good idea to go changing a systems alias file(s) just to avoid the verbosity of the ISO standard because:
  a) you might break something
  b) your code just lost it's portability

14-Jun-2003 09:41
The way I got gettext to work with just a standard "de" or "fr" instead of "de_DE" was I overwrote my /usr/share/locale/locale.alias with /usr/lib/X11/locale/locale.alias file.  The I restarted Apache.  Reason I did this was it appeared the X11 file was more up to date and more modernised!
09-Jun-2003 12:45
Note to Chinese programmers....

Took me hours to figure out you cannot use

but have to use
on some machines...

a good way to test will be to check the return of setlocale()
robert at klugher dot com
26-Feb-2003 01:03
Sorry, one more info :

the previous post is especially interesting when you have values set on the server for some of the LC_... then, setlocale() output gives you all the LC_... with their value.

BUT do not forget that the priority order for gettext is:


Then, if ever you script always translate to the same language, check the value of LANGUAGE ...
robert at klugher dot com
25-Feb-2003 09:24
One trick I found after HOURS of tries :

when you use the setlocale(), PHP will use the locale info it will find in, for example, /usr/share/locale to set the language info for LC_ALL, LC_MESSAGES, ...

You can check the exact info it will use by using putenv() with LANG=.... and looking at the return value of setlocale(LC_ALL, ""). The language value your gettext function will use to look for your translation file is the one given for LC_MESSAGES.

Example :

I was setting the LANG as fr_BE, and placed the translation file in dirxxx/locale/fr_BE/LC_MESSAGES/...
As it was locale info in my system for fr_BE but NOT LC_MESSAGES, PHP choosed to use the LC_MESSAGES settings for fr_FR instead and then, was looking for a translation file in dirxxx/locale/fr_FR/LC_MESSAGES/..., which wasn't found of course.

So, just make sure to look at the return value of setlocale to see what language value is associated to LC_MESSAGES and, then, to know in which subdirectory the translation file will be looked for by gettext.

zw at matfyz dot cz
06-Feb-2003 02:38
There is a nice tutorial on using gettext with php
php at zpod dot ca
30-Jan-2003 11:24
For those of you just trying to get a script working and your provider doesn't support gettext, you can bypass the international stuff by adding this:

function _($str) {
    return $str;
Eneko Lacunza enlar at enlar dot net
17-Jan-2003 12:20
Some tips from my Red Hat Linux 7.3 system.

It didn't work for me until I set a full locale (i.e. es_ES) with setlocale.

I was trying with Michele Manzato's example (thank you!), but as it sets the language without the country, it was failing for me. Here is the example "fixed" with full locale:

// Change to script directory
// (Not needed in RH 7.3)
$path = dirname(getenv(PATH_TRANSLATED));

// Set the language as full locale 'es_ES'
$language = 'es_ES';
setlocale(LC_ALL, $language);

// Set the text domain as 'mydomain'
$domain = 'mydomain';
bindtextdomain("$domain", "./locale");

// The .mo file searched is:
// ./locale/es_ES/LC_MESSAGES/
// or if previous one doesn't exist:
// ./locale/es/LC_MESSAGES/

echo gettext("Hello world!");

Hope this helps!
yledoare at free dot fr
15-Jan-2003 11:32
Corrections to "hace_x at yahoo dot com" message.

Note : The backslash have been removed in the greetings.po sample code (before the n characters at end of lines).

Same thing for ".includestranslations" to move into "./includes/translations" in php sample.

I used mingw ( with gettext package ( to make it work under WinXp.

I uncoment also "extension=php_gettext.dll" in php.ini (I am using easy php

Here is my conv.bat to generate french translation :

set path=c:\mingw\bin
msgfmt -v -o greetings.po

That's all !

Yann Le Doar? Brest, France
ywliu atsign hotmail com
09-Jul-2002 11:39

For users with Red Hat GNU/Linux (at least 6.2) to use gettext, I'd like to make some notes here :

1. Calling setlocale() is necessary, where calling putenv('LANG=xx_YY') or putenv('LC_ALL=xx_YY') is not.

2. The country/language code should be in the "language_country" form,such as, "en_US" or "fr_FR", or any entry in /usr/share/locale/locale.aliase . The simple ISO two-letter code, such as "en" , is not valid. You can examine the return value of setlocale to see if the locale setting succeeds.

This took me several hours to debug. I hope my experience can save you some time.

This may apply to other Linux distributions or *BSD systems. I don't know. I hope this helps.

Yen-Wei Liu
php at dynaperl dot com
25-Jun-2002 08:49
璗 you install from SuSE Dist. you need glibc-locale.rpm to let gettext work.

mfg ralph.
mgvNOSPAM at fx dot ro
05-Jun-2002 09:47
If you're as clueless as I am, please note the following:
1. Although most comments list setlocal() in the code, that's not actually required for translations - read the docs under "string functions" for details (also, the official gettext() examples don't include it);
2. hace_x's example is really cool, except you need to know that all "n"'s at the end of his strings should have a backslash before - they're actually EOL characters, but they somehow got messed up and I needed two hours to find that out...
hace_x at yahoo dot com
15-Nov-2001 09:40
I had alot of problems to get gettext() to work on my windows2000-php webserver. The following will give those windows-php users something to hold on to:

Note the way you have to use slashes for the bindtextdomain command:

For a 'greetings' domain:

bindtextdomain ("greetings", ".\includes\translations");

(so, TWO slashes instead of one between the folder-names!)

ALSO, I had to change the filename to be '': This was NOT clear from all the gnu-pages I read. I had named those files: (for dutch) and (for french etcetera).

I provide my code and folder-structure here for other windows-users:

("Content-type: text/plain");
// Bind a domain to directory
// Gettext uses domains to know what directories to
// search for translations to messages passed to gettext

bindtextdomain ("greetings""./includes/translations"); // Set the current domain that gettext will use
textdomain ('greetings'); # Make an array

# Use the ISO two-letter codes as keys
# Use the language names as values
$iso_codes = array ( 
foreach (
$iso_codes as $iso_code => $language) { 
# Set the LANGUAGE environment variable to the desired language
putenv ('LANG='.$iso_code); # Print out the language name and greeting
# Filter the greeting through gettext

printf ("%12s: %s\n"$languagegettext("str_hello")) & "\n"


In the windows-webfolder I have the following directory-structure:


To get this working you will need a greetings.po file like this:

(this one is in the 'nl' subdir for dutch language):
msgid ""
msgstr ""
"Project-Id-Version: n"
"POT-Creation-Date: n"
"PO-Revision-Date: 2001-11-14 17:11+0100n"
"Last-Translator: Melle Koning <>n"
"Language-Team:  <>n"
"MIME-Version: 1.0n"
"Content-Type: text/plain; charset=utf-8n"
"Content-Transfer-Encoding: 8bitn"

msgid "str_hello"
msgstr "hallo"

and you have to 'compile' this .po file to a .mo file with the following command-line (go to windows 'command prompt'):

msgfmt -o greetings.po

To get msgfmt working on your windows machine, you will need to have libiconv.dll, libintl.dll and msgfmt.exe in your path. What I did was put these three files in a new c:utils folder and than run the command:

I hope this helps some windows-users like me to get gettext() to work on their systems.......

Michele dot Manzato at verona dot miz dot it
14-Sep-2001 05:52
Gettext is great, but there are a few caveats you have to consider in order to make it work. Unfortunately the gettext docs isn't so plain and clear...

The .mo file created with the gettext utilities must be:

[bindtextdomain's dir]/[language]/LC_MESSAGES/[domain].mo

otherwise gettext() function will fail to find it (this is true in win32, don't know about Un*ces). By the way you don't get any error message, the strings will simply remain untranslated.

Second, you must make sure which is the current directory if you use a relative path in bindtextdomain. On some systems the script directory isn't the current directory, so you have to chdir() there.

Then, of course, make sure that the appropriate gettext extension are loaded by PHP by looking at the php configuration file.

Here is some sample code:

// Change to the script directory
$path = dirname(getenv(PATH_TRANSLATED));

// Set the language as 'it'
$language = 'it';
setlocale(LC_ALL, $language);

// Set the text domain as 'mydomain'
$domain = 'mydomain';
bindtextdomain("$domain", "./locale");

// The .mo file searched is:
// ./locale/it/LC_MESSAGES/

echo gettext("Hello world!");

Have fun!
12-Jul-2001 06:59
To get xgettext working with my php code I had to change simple quotes to double quites in my previous example :

if($err)printf(dGetText("errorMsg","you have an error here"));

I guess that's because strings can not be simple-quoted in C. However I think it is good practice to do as if it was a simple quote, because you do not want to interpolate a string that will end in the catalogue.

11-Jul-2001 07:40
It is probably obvious to many of you,  but I thought it was worth mentioning that the domain is the name of the .mo files that contain the string catalogue (without the extension).

so if you have a catalogue for each page in './locale/lg/LC_MESSAGE' and some generic catalogues (e.g. in '/global/locale/lg/LC_MESSAGE', you can do

bindTextDomain("$myPage", './locale');
bindTextDomain('errorMsg','/global/locale' );
if($err)printf(dGetText('errorMsg','you have an error here'));

ilya at vtrails dot com
09-Jul-2000 09:01
For all the confused folks: gettext is GNU's project, it's main purpose is to allow easy internationalization of programs (that is, translation of messages to other languages). Check
for details about the library itself. Also, read gettext description in this manual to see what it has to do with PHP.
Basicly, instead of printing your messages in the usual way in PHP code, you can use gettext calls to substitute messages in other languages on the fly

 Last updated: Thu, 21 Aug 2003
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