I'm using the following as part of a shortcode I'm creating:

$loop = new WP_Query(array('post_type' => 'client', 'posts_per_page' => $limit, 'orderby' => $orderby)); 

        $preoutput = '<div class="outer">';
        $postoutput = '</div>';
        while ($loop->have_posts()){
            $output .= '<div class="box box-'.$columns.'"><h2>hello</h2>'.the_post_thumbnail(); 
            $output .= '<div class="text"><h2 class="entry-title"><a href="'.get_permalink().'">'.get_the_title().'</a></h2>'.get_the_excerpt().'</div></div>';  
            $finaloutput = $preoutput . $output . $postoutput;

However, the post thumbnail doesn't appear in the markup, it appears just at the top of the post - why would it do this?


You are using the_post_thumbnail, which directly outputs the thumbnail in an image tag. You need to use get_the_post_thumbnail instead, which returns the image.

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