What does it mean to start a PHP function with an ampersand?

An ampersand before a function name means the function will return a reference to a variable instead of the value.

Returning by reference is useful when you want to use a function to find to which variable a reference should be bound. Do not use return-by-reference to increase performance. The engine will automatically optimize this on its own. Only return references when you have a valid technical reason to do so.

 

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