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Sometimes your PDO code produces an error like Call to a member function execute() or similar. Or even without any error but the query doesn't work all the same. It means that your query failed to execute.

Every time a query fails, MySQL has an error message that explains the reason. Unfortunately, by default such errors are not transferred to PHP, and all you have is a silence or a cryptic error message mentioned above. Hence it is very important to configure PHP and PDO to report you MySQL errors. And once you get the error message, it will be a no-brainer to fix the issue.

In order to get the detailed information about the problem, either put the following line in your code right after connect


(where $dbh is the name of your PDO instance variable) or - better - add this parameter as a connection option. After that all database errors will be translated into PDO exceptions which, if left alone, would act just as regular PHP errors.

There is a very small chance that in case of some specific error an exception won't be thrown. If your query()/prepare() or execute() call returns false but there is no exception, check the PDO::errorInfo() like this,

 trigger_error("PDO errorInfo: ".$dbh->errorInfo());

After getting the error message, you have to read and comprehend it. It sounds too obvious, but learners often overlook the meaning of the error message. Yet most of time it explains the problem pretty straightforward:

  • Say, if it says that a particular table doesn't exist, you have to check spelling, typos, letter case. Also you have to make sure that your PHP script connects to a correct database
  • Or, if it says there is an error in the SQL syntax, then you have to examine your SQL. And the problem spot is right before the query part cited in the error message.

You have to also trust the error message. If it says that number of tokens doesn't match the number of bound variables then it is so. Same goes for absent tables or columns. Given the choice, whether it's your own mistake or the error message is wrong, always stick to the former. Again it sounds condescending, but hundreds of questions on this very site prove this advice extremely useful.

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