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Working with Container Service Definitions

Working with Container Service Definitions

Service definitions are the instructions describing how the container should build a service. They are not the actual services used by your applications

Getting and Setting Service Definitions

There are some helpful methods for working with the service definitions.

To find out if there is a definition for a service id:


This is useful if you only want to do something if a particular definition exists.

You can retrieve a definition with:




which unlike getDefinition() also resolves aliases so if the $serviceId argument is an alias you will get the underlying definition.

The service definitions themselves are objects so if you retrieve a definition with these methods and make changes to it these will be reflected in the container. If, however, you are creating a new definition then you can add it to the container using:

use Symfony\Component\DependencyInjection\Definition;

$definition = new Definition('Acme\Service\MyService');
$container->setDefinition('acme.my_service', $definition);


Registering service definitions is so common that the container provides a shortcut method called register():

$container->register('acme.my_service', 'Acme\Service\MyService');

Working with a Definition

Creating a New Definition

In addition to manipulating and retrieving existing definitions, you can also define new service definitions with the Symfony\Component\DependencyInjection\Definition class.


The first optional argument of the Definition class is the fully qualified class name of the object returned when the service is fetched from the container:

use Symfony\Component\DependencyInjection\Definition;

$definition = new Definition('Acme\Service\MyService');

If the class is unknown when instantiating the Definition class, use the setClass() method to set it later:


To find out what class is set for a definition:

$class = $definition->getClass();
// $class = 'Acme\Service\MyService'

Constructor Arguments

The second optional argument of the Definition class is an array with the arguments passed to the constructor of the object returned when the service is fetched from the container:

use Symfony\Component\DependencyInjection\Definition;

$definition = new Definition(
    array('argument1' => 'value1', 'argument2' => 'value2')

If the arguments are unknown when instantiating the Definition class or if you want to add new arguments, use the addArgument() method, which adds them at the end of the arguments array:


To get an array of the constructor arguments for a definition you can use:


or to get a single argument by its position:

// e.g. $definition->getArgument(0) for the first argument

The argument can be a string, an array or a service parameter by using the %parameter_name% syntax:


If the argument is another service, don’t use the get() method to fetch it, because it won’t be available when defining services. Instead, use the Symfony\Component\DependencyInjection\Reference class to get a reference to the service which will be available once the service container is fully built:

use Symfony\Component\DependencyInjection\Reference;

// ...

$definition->addArgument(new Reference('service_id'));

In a similar way you can replace an already set argument by index using:

$definition->replaceArgument($index, $argument);

You can also replace all the arguments (or set some if there are none) with an array of arguments:


Method Calls

If the service you are working with uses setter injection then you can manipulate any method calls in the definitions as well.

You can get an array of all the method calls with:


Add a method call with:

$definition->addMethodCall($method, $arguments);

Where $method is the method name and $arguments is an array of the arguments to call the method with. The arguments can be strings, arrays, parameters or service ids as with the constructor arguments.

You can also replace any existing method calls with an array of new ones with:



There are more examples of specific ways of working with definitions in the PHP code blocks of the configuration examples on pages such as Using a Factory to Create Services and Managing Common Dependencies with Parent Services.


The methods here that change service definitions can only be used before the container is compiled. Once the container is compiled you cannot manipulate service definitions further. To learn more about compiling the container see Compiling the Container.

Requiring Files

There might be use cases when you need to include another file just before the service itself gets loaded. To do so, you can use the setFile() method:


Notice that Symfony will internally call the PHP statement require_once, which means that your file will be included only once per request.

This work, including the code samples, is licensed under a Creative Commons BY-SA 3.0 license.