Skip to content

Scalar Type Definition

Scalar types represent primitive leaf values in a GraphQL type system. When object fields have to resolve to some concrete data, that's where the scalar types come in.

Built-in Scalar Types

The GraphQL specification describes several built-in scalar types. In graphql-php they are exposed as static methods of the class GraphQL\Type\Definition\Type:

use GraphQL\Type\Definition\Type;

// Built-in Scalar types:
Type::string();  // String type
Type::int();     // Int type
Type::float();   // Float type
Type::boolean(); // Boolean type
Type::id();      // ID type

Those methods return instances of a subclass of GraphQL\Type\Definition\ScalarType. Use them directly in type definitions or wrapped in a type registry (see lazy loading of types).

Writing Custom Scalar Types

In addition to built-in scalars, you can define your own scalar types with additional validation. Typical examples of such types are Email, Date, Url, etc.

In order to implement your own type, you must understand how scalars are handled in GraphQL. GraphQL deals with scalars in the following cases:

  1. Convert the internal representation of a value, returned by your app (e.g. stored in a database or hardcoded in the source code), to a serialized representation included in the response.

  2. Convert an input value, passed by a client in variables along with a GraphQL query, to its internal representation used in your application.

  3. Convert an input literal value, hardcoded in a GraphQL query (e.g. field argument value), to its internal representation used in your application.

Those cases are covered by the methods serialize, parseValue and parseLiteral of the abstract class ScalarType respectively.

Here is an example of a simple Email type:

use GraphQL\Error\Error;
use GraphQL\Error\InvariantViolation;
use GraphQL\Language\AST\StringValueNode;
use GraphQL\Type\Definition\ScalarType;
use GraphQL\Utils\Utils;

class EmailType extends ScalarType
    // Note: name can be omitted. In this case it will be inferred from class name
    // (suffix "Type" will be dropped)
    public string $name = 'Email';

    public function serialize($value)
        if (!filter_var($value, FILTER_VALIDATE_EMAIL)) {
            throw new InvariantViolation("Could not serialize following value as email: " . Utils::printSafe($value));

        return $this->parseValue($value);

    public function parseValue($value)
        if (!filter_var($value, FILTER_VALIDATE_EMAIL)) {
            throw new Error("Cannot represent following value as email: " . Utils::printSafeJson($value));

        return $value;

    public function parseLiteral(Node $valueNode, ?array $variables = null)
        // Throw GraphQL\Error\Error vs \UnexpectedValueException to locate the error in the query
        if (!$valueNode instanceof StringValueNode) {
            throw new Error('Query error: Can only parse strings got: ' . $valueNode->kind, [$valueNode]);

        if (!filter_var($valueNode->value, FILTER_VALIDATE_EMAIL)) {
            throw new Error("Not a valid email", [$valueNode]);

        return $valueNode->value;

Or with inline style:

use GraphQL\Type\Definition\CustomScalarType;

$emailType = new CustomScalarType([
    'name' => 'Email',
    'serialize' => static function ($value) {/* See function body above */},
    'parseValue' => static function ($value) {/* See function body above */},
    'parseLiteral' => static function (Node $valueNode, ?array $variables = null) {/* See function body above */},

Keep in mind the passed functions will be called statically, so a passed in callable such as [Foo::class, 'bar'] should only reference static class methods.