Searching the answer for How to get user permissions for the role Administrator? I found that if you try to get the permissions for the admin user you will get an empty array.

From Role::getPermissions():

   * Returns a list of permissions assigned to the role.
   * @return array
   *   The permissions assigned to the role.
  public function getPermissions() {
    if ($this->isAdmin()) {
      return [];
    return $this->permissions;

But if the admin user have all the permissions why Drupal just return an empty array?

  • 1
    Does this happen for "super admin" (user 1) only? or does this still happen even for other "admins" (admins that are not user 1) ?
    – No Sssweat
    Apr 7, 2017 at 3:16
  • 1
    @NoSssweat I haven't test it but I think that is for all the admin users public function isAdmin() { return (bool) $this->is_admin; } Apr 7, 2017 at 3:35
  • 1
    @NoSssweat It happens for all the users having the role that in admin/config/people/accounts you set as Administrator role.
    – apaderno
    Apr 7, 2017 at 4:59

1 Answer 1


That is because a role that is marked with is_admin (which from the UI is possible for just a single role) has all the permissions. Consider it as an extension of the user #1 concept; the difference is that there is just a user #1, but there could be many users assigned to the role marked as is_admin.
In fact, the code does the same it does for the user #1: It explicitly checks for the role being is_admin. So, returning an array of permissions that will never be used doesn't make sense. See Role::hasPermission().

  if ($this->isAdmin()) {
    return TRUE;
  return in_array($permission, $this->permissions);

Similar code is present in other functions/methods, for example Role::revokePermission().

  if ($this->isAdmin()) {
    return $this;
  $this->permissions = array_diff($this->permissions, array($permission));
  return $this;

As for why Drupal uses that code, it is because from the UI it is possible to change which role is marked as is_admin, including one for which permissions were already set. Once it is marked is_admin, the permissions explicitly set can be ignored, but they are kept, just in case you change from the UI the role marked as is_admin. In such case, you would not want to set again the permissions you set for the old is_admin role.

  • makes sense, and interesting think about the permissions, thanks kiam. Apr 7, 2017 at 13:29

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