I'm using a custom WP_Query. The code is something like below:

$portfolio_args = array(
    'post_type'           => 'portfolio',
    'posts_per_page'      => 5,
    'paged'               => get_query_var( 'page' )

$portfolio_query = new WP_Query($portfolio_args);

Now, my portfolio post type has 15 entries (thus it is good for 3 pages). I can navigate to all these pages, but the issue is even the pages which does not have any portfolio entry (e.g. /page/4/, /page/5, ...) loads just fine (i.e. throws 200 in response header), whereas, I'm expecting it to throw a 404 error if the page has not any entry.

Is it the expected behaviour for custom query pagination? If so do I need to force a 404 response header somehow?

1 Answer 1


Response is based on the results of the main query. The decision is made before the template is loaded, which is how WP is able to serve a 404 template in the case of a 404.

As you've learned, the page post type lets you paginate endlessly in both the format pagename/page/n/, as well as the singular pattern pagename/n/. To generate a 404 for a different query, you'd need to hook something like template_redirect to check if your custom query contains posts so you can force a 404 before output starts.

The preferred solution is to set the has_archive argument for your custom post type, which enables an archive page. The main query will then be your collection of portfolio posts, and pagination will work as expected.

  • So, will I have access to '$portfolio_query' object in 'template_redirect' hook? Any example of using this hook for forcing a 404 error. Moreover, I cannot use 'archive-portfolio.php' method, it is limiting in some other aspects. Commented Jul 2, 2017 at 0:47
  • You'll have to create the query within the hooked function. See this answer for setting a 404.
    – Milo
    Commented Jul 2, 2017 at 1:02

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