Hopefully this makes sense. I'm still learning.

There is a function in a plugin I'm developing that I want to modify to recognize custom roles.

My function works when it is hard-coded to accept administrator, editor, author, contributor, and subscriber. However, I'm stuck on modifying the conditional to accept all editable roles.

Here is the working code (but hard-coded):

    if ( $current_user->data->wp_capabilities['administrator'] ) {
        $role = 'administrator';
    } elseif ( $current_user->data->wp_capabilities['editor'] ) {
        $role = 'editor';
    } elseif ( $current_user->data->wp_capabilities['author'] ) {
        $role = 'author';
    } elseif ( $current_user->data->wp_capabilities['contributor'] ) {
        $role = 'contributor';
    } elseif ( $current_user->data->wp_capabilities['subscriber'] ) {
        $role = 'subscriber';

    if ( isset( $role ) ) {
        /* If they are an admin then we grant them all permissions that they ask for */
        if ( $current_user->data->wp_capabilities['administrator'] ) {
            foreach ( $new_caps as $new_cap ) {
                $capabilities[ $new_cap ] = true;
            $user->add_role( $role );
        } /* Otherwise lets check if their role deserves that capability    */
        else {
            foreach ( $new_caps as $new_cap ) {
                if ( $wp_roles->get_role( $role )->has_cap( $new_cap ) ) {
                    $capabilities[ $new_cap ] = true;
                    $user->add_role( $role );

Instead of if ... administrator then assign role .... it should be a variable.

I'm guessing but somehow editable roles should be available (?) such as the following.

    $all_roles = $wp_roles->roles;

    $editable_roles = apply_filters('editable_roles', $all_roles);

Can someone help me out and suggest how to rewrite the conditional so it is not hard-coded?

Thank you.

  • You should set a debug message in an else statement for when $role is not set to help debug this question and any answers. It should also be noted that setting a role is a permanent change, it persists after the current page load. I made this mistake and set the user role on every page load in the past not realising WordPress would remember it.
    – Tom J Nowell
    Mar 25, 2014 at 0:43

1 Answer 1


First, your check code works, and takes this pattern:

if ( $current_user->data->wp_capabilities['hardcoded role name'] ) {
    $role = 'hardcoded role name';

So lets swap the hardcoded role string out for a variable called $role_name ( you could call it something else if you want ). The check for a role name is now:

if ( $current_user->data->wp_capabilities[$role_name] ) {
    $role = $role_name;

But we need to check more than one role, so, lets make a list of the roles to check

$roles_to_check = array(

Then check each role in our list

foreach ( $roles_to_check as $role_name ) {
    .. do the check ..

So far everything we've done has been standard programming, with very little PHP specific knowledge. I recommend you take a good look at for loops and arrays as your question indicates a lack of knowledge or confidence in these areas.

But we're not finished. You want to be able to handle any arbitrary role!

So lets start with get_editable_roles(). This will give us an array of roles, but we can't swap out the array from above without a slight modification.

$roles = get_editable_roles();
foreach ( $roles as $role_name => $role_info ) {
    .. do our check ..

In your case however you want the roles of a specific user, so going back to your original check, you use this array:


so if we do this for our loop:

foreach ( $current_user->data->wp_capabilities as $role_name => $capability ) {

You should be able to do what you desire

  • First - thank you for the answer. You are correct. I don't think like a programmer because too many manuals, books, videos leave out "obvious" information which takes me a long time to piece together. For example, you state "do the check" ... I suspect you mean 'do the new conditional' with the $role = $role_name. I started walking through your excellent answer by changing the conditionals to the array and foreach. Unfortunately, now the add_role doesn't write to the database. If you could clarify the 'do the check' in case I'm wrong.
    – LPH
    Mar 25, 2014 at 0:30
  • the .. do the check .. part I already covered in the question, and can be copied as is. The entire final code example can be assembled by copy pasting from my question. I simply refuse to place it all in a single copy paste block because it means people copy paste without reading the answer and don't really understand what the code is doing.
    – Tom J Nowell
    Mar 25, 2014 at 0:37
  • I've amended the wording slightly of my answer encase it wasn't clear what some things meant to remove some ambiguities
    – Tom J Nowell
    Mar 25, 2014 at 0:40
  • Argh sorry I added a bit at the end that should simplify things for you, using $current_user->data->wp_capabilities
    – Tom J Nowell
    Mar 25, 2014 at 0:46
  • Thank you for the edits. I either missed or read past, "The check for a role name is now" ... so I'm on the right track but my code fails. I'll keep reading. Again - I appreciate the help. A var_dump shows the user's correct role is being returned after the foreach. It's just not writing to the database with the add_role in the bottom part. I'm sure it's an 'obvious' error on my part. Many thanks.
    – LPH
    Mar 25, 2014 at 0:49

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