I have a custom field in usermeta called vatnumber. If the field has a value, how do I read that specific value for user X?

Here's what I have so far:

<tr class="vatnumber">
    <th><?php _e( 'VAT-Number:', 'wpdb_usermeta' ); ?></th>
    <td><?php $wpdb->get_results("SELECT userid, vatnumber FROM usermeta"); ?></td>

But I don't quite understand wpdb yet. I know it is used for reading and writing from and to the database, but if I need a value for a specific user, do I have to assign the user_id to a variable?

On the same side, how do I make sure a certain field writes into the correct place in the database?

I would be glad if you could give me an example code tidbit.


from what I understand, I can change it to

<?php $wpdb->get_user_meta($user_id, vatnumber,"); ?>

But does $single = false give me an array for all users with their respective user_ids? Because user_id in this case is a variable.

I'm sorry that I haven't used the WordPress database in a while, but how do I tell the system which user to get the info from? I would need to read the current_user ID, wouldn't I?

  • I'm sure this has been answered here on this site. Check out the get_user_meta( $user_id, $key, $single ) functions in the Codex.
    – birgire
    Jan 8, 2016 at 11:05
  • I've looked around a fair bit and haven't found an answer yet, sadly. It always goes "read wpdb in the reference", but that doesn't necessarily explain the process of actually using it. But sure, I'll look around once more.
    – theHubi
    Jan 8, 2016 at 11:10
  • You should check out the {add,update,get,delete}_user_meta() functions, they will make life easier so you don't have to write custom SQL queries.
    – birgire
    Jan 8, 2016 at 11:14
  • 2
    Possible duplicate of What's the most efficient database method to add and query usermeta?
    – birgire
    Jan 8, 2016 at 11:16
  • Thank you for the link. It really is about time I learn to use the entirety of the WordPress database. That way I don't always have to look around for the corresponding information first.
    – theHubi
    Jan 8, 2016 at 11:19

1 Answer 1


This is still a valid question even if there is an easier way.

That easier way is get_user_meta($user_id,'vatnumber',true);

NOT $wpdb->get_user_meta($user_id, vatnumber,''); by the way.

Setting the $single flag to true is because although you can store multiple values in a single keyname but this is usually best avoided to avoid confusion.

Since you are getting a single value, the correct syntax for the database query would look something like this:

global $wpdb; $metakey = "vatnumber";
$dbquery = $wpdb->prepare("SELECT meta_value FROM ".$wpdb->prefix."usermeta WHERE user_id = %d AND meta_key = %s", $user_id, $metakey);
$vatnumber = $wpdb->get_var($dbquery);

(You need to call global $wpdb; only once inside each function.) Or, if you want to do it all at once:

global $wpdb;
$vatnumber = $wpdb->get_var($wpdb->prepare("SELECT meta_value FROM ".$wpdb->prefix."usermeta WHERE user_id = %d AND meta_key = %s", $user_id, "vatnumber") );

Note the use of $wpdb->prefix which generally will output wp_ since the standard table name is wp_usermeta but the prefix can be changed and it is good practice to support this in a plugin (but may not be needed for custom coding on your own site where you know it is wp_ anyway.)

Also note the action of $wpdb->prepare which tends to be needed these days to avoid MySQL injection attempts. The %d is replaced by the numeric value of $user_id. The %s is replaced by the string value of $meta_key.

If you do want to get ALL user_id's and corresponding meta_value's for those users with a VAT number stored, THEN you can use the get_results method to get them all, for example:

global $wpdb; $metakey = "vatnumber";
$dbquery = $wpdb->prepare("SELECT user_id,meta_value FROM ".$wpdb->prefix."usermeta WHERE meta_key = %s", $metakey);
$vatdata = $wpdb->get_results($dbquery);
foreach ($vatdata as $data) {
    echo "VAT for User ".$data->user_id.": ".$data->meta_value."<br>";

More examples: https://codex.wordpress.org/Class_Reference/wpdb

  • actually in retrospect I don't think you need to use $wpdb->prepare at all as it is for preparing data to insert via $wpdb->query, but I am going to leave the code as is so that it shows how to use that too.
    – majick
    Jan 8, 2016 at 11:51
  • Thanks a lot! Finally someone who actually explains the process and doesn't just link to a codex page. I really appreciate it.
    – theHubi
    Jan 8, 2016 at 12:01
  • no problem, I think answers should be like that hey, so they are there for others future reference. ah if only the codex were so written also :-)
    – majick
    Jan 8, 2016 at 12:20

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