In code review I saw a developer using count($paragraph->field_events) to get the number of referenced entities.

I thought, surely that can't work, that can't be right. So the question is, what is the correct way to get the number of items from a field on an entity?

1 Answer 1


Using count() on a field is acceptable because there is an implementation of Countable::count in the ListInterface implemented by ItemList class where it overloads the count method to count the items, from which FieldItemList and EntityReferenceFieldItemList inherit.

So you can use:




synonymously. They do the same thing.

From ItemList.php:

public function count() {
  return count($this->list);

If you'd like test this, you can play with this simple class. If you remove the "Implements Countable" calling count(a) on object a doesn't return the count() method, but if you add it back, it does. So on a low level, Drupal is using this so you can call count() on fields.

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