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DQL & The Query Builder

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We just learned that when you ask for a repository, what you actually get back is a custom class. Well, technically you don't have to have a custom repository class - and if you don't, Doctrine will just give you an instance of EntityRepository. But in practice, I always have custom repository classes.

Anyways, when we ask for the repository for the Question entity, we get back an instance of this QuestionRepository. The cool thing is that we can add custom methods to hold custom queries. In fact, every time I write a custom query, I'll put it in a repository class.

Here's the new goal: I want to change the query on the homepage so that it hides any questions WHERE askedAt IS NULL. This will hide "unpublished" questions.


We know that we use SQL queries to talk to databases. Internally, Doctrine has a slightly different language called DQL: Doctrine Query Language. But don't worry, it's almost identical to SQL. The main difference is that, with DQL, you reference class and property names instead of table and column names. Otherwise, it basically looks the same.

The QueryBuilder

Now, you can absolutely write DQL strings by hand and execute them. Or you can use a super handy object called the QueryBuilder, which allows you to build that DQL string using a convenient object. That is what you see here.

The $this->createQueryBuilder() line creates the QueryBuilder object. And because we're inside of the QuestionRepository, the QueryBuilder will already know to query FROM the question table. The q is basically the table alias, like SELECT * FROM question as q. We'll use that everywhere to refer to properties on Question.

Then, most of the methods on QueryBuilder are pretty intuitive, like, andWhere() and orderBy(). setMaxResults() is probably one of the least intuitive and it's still pretty simple: this adds a LIMIT.

Prepared Statements

Check out the andWhere(): q.exampleField = :value. Doctrine uses prepared statements... which is a fancy way of saying that you should never concatenate a dynamic value into a string. This allows for SQL injections.

Instead, whenever you have something dynamic, set it to a placeholder - like :value and then set that placeholder with setParameter(). This is how prepared statements work. It's not unique at all to Doctrine, but I wanted to point it out.

Writing our Custom Query

Ok: let's clear out these four lines and make our own query. Start with ->andWhere('q.askedAt IS NOT NULL').

... lines 1 - 14
class QuestionRepository extends ServiceEntityRepository
... lines 17 - 24
public function findAllAskedOrderedByNewest()
return $this->createQueryBuilder('q')
->andWhere('q.askedAt IS NOT NULL')
... line 29
... lines 34 - 45

I'm using askedAt because that's the name of the property... even though the column in the table is asked_at. Now add ->orderBy() with q.askedAt and DESC.

... lines 1 - 14
class QuestionRepository extends ServiceEntityRepository
... lines 17 - 24
public function findAllAskedOrderedByNewest()
return $this->createQueryBuilder('q')
->andWhere('q.askedAt IS NOT NULL')
->orderBy('q.askedAt', 'DESC')
... lines 34 - 45

Oh, and notice that I'm using andWhere()... even though there are no WHERE clauses before this! I'm doing this for 2 reasons. First... because it's allowed! Doctrine is smart enough to figure out if it needs an AND statement or not. And second, there is a where() method... but it's kind of dangerous because it will override any where() or andWhere() calls that you had earlier. So, I never use it.

Once we're done building our query, we always finish with getQuery() to transform it into a finished Query object. Then, the getResult() method will return an array of Question objects. My @return already says this! Woo!

The other common final method is getOneOrNullResult() which I use when I want to find a single record.

Ok: with any luck, this will return the array of Question objects we need! Let's try it! Find your browser, refresh and... no errors! But I can't exactly tell if it's hiding the right stuff. Let's click on the web debug toolbar to see the query. I think that's right! Click "View formatted query". That's definitely right!

More Complex Queries? SQL?

We're not going to talk too much more about creating custom queries, but we do have an entire tutorial about Doctrine queries. It's built on an old version of Symfony, but all of the info about Doctrine queries hasn't changed.

And yes, if you ever have a super duper custom complex query and you just want to write it in normal SQL, you can absolutely do that. The Doctrine queries tutorial will show you how.

Autowiring the Repository Directly

Anyways, whenever we need to query for something, we're going to get the repository for that entity and either call a custom method that we created or a built-in method. And actually... I've been making us do too much work! There's an easier way to get the repository. Instead of autowiring the entity manager and calling getRepository(), the QuestionRepository itself is a service in the container. That means we can autowire it directly!

Check it out: remove the EntityManagerInterface argument and replace it with QuestionRepository $repository. Celebrate by deleting the getRepository() call.

... lines 1 - 5
use App\Repository\QuestionRepository;
... lines 7 - 13
class QuestionController extends AbstractController
... lines 16 - 28
public function homepage(QuestionRepository $repository)
$questions = $repository->findAllAskedOrderedByNewest();
return $this->render('question/homepage.html.twig', [
'questions' => $questions,
... lines 37 - 99

If we move over and refresh... it still works! In practice, when I need to query for something, this is what I do: I autowire the specific repository I need. The only time that I work with the entity manager directly is when I need to save something - like we're doing in the new() method.

Thanks to the QueryBuilder object, we can leverage a pattern inside our repository that will allow us to reuse pieces of query logic for multiple queries. Let me show you how next.

Leave a comment!

This tutorial also works great for Symfony 6!

What PHP libraries does this tutorial use?

// composer.json
    "require": {
        "php": "^7.4.1",
        "ext-ctype": "*",
        "ext-iconv": "*",
        "composer/package-versions-deprecated": "^1.11", // 1.11.99
        "doctrine/doctrine-bundle": "^2.1", // 2.1.1
        "doctrine/doctrine-migrations-bundle": "^3.0", // 3.0.2
        "doctrine/orm": "^2.7", // 2.8.2
        "knplabs/knp-markdown-bundle": "^1.8", // 1.9.0
        "knplabs/knp-time-bundle": "^1.11", // v1.16.0
        "sensio/framework-extra-bundle": "^6.0", // v6.2.1
        "sentry/sentry-symfony": "^4.0", // 4.0.3
        "stof/doctrine-extensions-bundle": "^1.4", // v1.5.0
        "symfony/asset": "5.1.*", // v5.1.2
        "symfony/console": "5.1.*", // v5.1.2
        "symfony/dotenv": "5.1.*", // v5.1.2
        "symfony/flex": "^1.3.1", // v1.17.5
        "symfony/framework-bundle": "5.1.*", // v5.1.2
        "symfony/monolog-bundle": "^3.0", // v3.5.0
        "symfony/stopwatch": "5.1.*", // v5.1.2
        "symfony/twig-bundle": "5.1.*", // v5.1.2
        "symfony/webpack-encore-bundle": "^1.7", // v1.8.0
        "symfony/yaml": "5.1.*", // v5.1.2
        "twig/extra-bundle": "^2.12|^3.0", // v3.0.4
        "twig/twig": "^2.12|^3.0" // v3.0.4
    "require-dev": {
        "doctrine/doctrine-fixtures-bundle": "^3.3", // 3.4.0
        "symfony/debug-bundle": "5.1.*", // v5.1.2
        "symfony/maker-bundle": "^1.15", // v1.23.0
        "symfony/var-dumper": "5.1.*", // v5.1.2
        "symfony/web-profiler-bundle": "5.1.*", // v5.1.2
        "zenstruck/foundry": "^1.1" // v1.5.0