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Laravel Has Many Through Relationship Explained with Example

mahmudulhsn profile image M H Hasib ・4 min read

Eloquent Relationships is one of the most useful and powerful features of the Laravel Framework. It is one of the reasons why I like Laravel most. Mainly it helps us to fetch or insert data in a very easy and efficient way.

As we know there are several types of relationships in Laravel. We (developers) use the first four of the most. These are: One To One, One To Many, One To Many (Inverse) / Belongs To, Many To Many.

I like Many To Many and Has Many Through most. Honestly speaking I enjoy these two relations most. Today I will explain Has Many Through with an easy example. I hope you'll be very clear after finishing this article.

So let's jump to our main section.

Let us have a scenario where we are creating a restaurant's items/menu and Items belongs to the Type and Types belongs to Category.

In simple words Category has many Types and Type has many Items. Now if we want all the Items which belongs to the Category, we need to keep the category_id in items table. But out items mainly belongs to Type. Basically Items are directly connected to Types.

So it's the case where we should use Has Many Through. By this kind of relation, we can fetch the data via another model. Like our scenario, we can directly fetch Items from Category via Types.

For your better understand I have created a GitHub Repository. You can visit this repository if you want. There I gave two types of examples for Has Many Through.

I try to give a very simple example so that I can make you understand easily. So, Let's start.

As I mentioned earlier that we are work with Category, Type, and Item.

So I make my migration very simple.

Here is my migration for Category. Let's have a look at this.

<?php

use Illuminate\Database\Migrations\Migration;
use Illuminate\Database\Schema\Blueprint;
use Illuminate\Support\Facades\Schema;

class CreateCategoriesTable extends Migration
{
    /**
     * Run the migrations.
     *
     * @return void
     */
    public function up()
    {
        Schema::create('categories', function (Blueprint $table) {
            $table->id();
            $table->string('name');
            $table->timestamps();
        });
    }

    /**
     * Reverse the migrations.
     *
     * @return void
     */
    public function down()
    {
        Schema::dropIfExists('categories');
    }
}
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You can see I kept only category name here.

Let's have look at my Category Model.

<?php

namespace App\Models;

use Illuminate\Database\Eloquent\Factories\HasFactory;
use Illuminate\Database\Eloquent\Model;

class Category extends Model
{
    use HasFactory;

    /**
     * The attributes that are mass assignable.
     *
     * @var array
     */
    protected $fillable = [
        'name',
    ];
}
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Here is my types migration. Let's have a look.

<?php

use Illuminate\Database\Migrations\Migration;
use Illuminate\Database\Schema\Blueprint;
use Illuminate\Support\Facades\Schema;

class CreateTypesTable extends Migration
{
    /**
     * Run the migrations.
     *
     * @return void
     */
    public function up()
    {
        Schema::create('types', function (Blueprint $table) {
            $table->id();
            $table->string('name');
            $table->unsignedInteger('category_id');
            $table->timestamps();
        });
    }

    /**
     * Reverse the migrations.
     *
     * @return void
     */
    public function down()
    {
        Schema::dropIfExists('types');
    }
}
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I just kept category_id as foreign key. So Category is connected with Type.

Here is the Type model.

<?php

namespace App\Models;

use Illuminate\Database\Eloquent\Factories\HasFactory;
use Illuminate\Database\Eloquent\Model;

class Type extends Model
{
    use HasFactory;

    /**
     * The attributes that are mass assignable.
     *
     * @var array
     */
    protected $fillable = [
        'name', 'category_id'
    ];
}
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You might find it very simple.

Let's jump to my Items Migration.

<?php

use Illuminate\Database\Migrations\Migration;
use Illuminate\Database\Schema\Blueprint;
use Illuminate\Support\Facades\Schema;

class CreateItemsTable extends Migration
{
    /**
     * Run the migrations.
     *
     * @return void
     */
    public function up()
    {
        Schema::create('items', function (Blueprint $table) {
            $table->id();
            $table->string('name');
            $table->longText('description');
            $table->unsignedInteger('type_id');
            $table->timestamps();
        });
    }

    /**
     * Reverse the migrations.
     *
     * @return void
     */
    public function down()
    {
        Schema::dropIfExists('items');
    }
}
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So here you can see that I just kept type_id as a foreign key. So Type is connected with Item. I didn't keep any category_id in Items Migration. Here is the main fact you need to understand that Item is not directly connected with Category. Item is connected with Category via Type. So that's why it's called Has Many Through relationship.

Now here is the model for Item.

<?php

namespace App\Models;

use Illuminate\Database\Eloquent\Factories\HasFactory;
use Illuminate\Database\Eloquent\Model;

class Item extends Model
{
    use HasFactory;

    /**
     * The attributes that are mass assignable.
     *
     * @var array
     */
    protected $fillable = [
        'name', 'description', 'type_id'
    ];
}
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Now we will build a Has Many Through Relationship from Category to Item.

Let's create this relation to Category model.

<?php

namespace App\Models;

use Illuminate\Database\Eloquent\Factories\HasFactory;
use Illuminate\Database\Eloquent\Model;

class Category extends Model
{
    use HasFactory;

    /**
     * The attributes that are mass assignable.
     *
     * @var array
     */
    protected $fillable = [
        'name',
    ];

    /**
     * Get all of the items for the user.
     */
    public function items()
    {
        return $this->hasManyThrough(Item::class, Type::class);
    }
}
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Here items is the relation that will fetch all the items that belongs to the category via type.

You can also use relation like this:

 return $this->hasManyThrough(
        Item::class,
        Type::class,
        'category_id', // Foreign key on the types table...
        'type_id', // Foreign key on the items table...
        'id', // Local key on the users table...
        'id' // Local key on the categories table...
 );
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There it goes. Our Has Many Through relationship has been build up successfully.

I want to give you another scenario where you can use this relationship for your better understand.

Scenario

Suppose we have three models.

Team (id, user_id, name)
User (id, name)
Goal (id, user_id, no.of goals)
So, the relationship is like this.

Team hasMany User (team_id inside User model)

User hasMany Goal (user_id inside Goal model)

See, from the relationship, we can see that here, the User model is an intermediary model.

We can not store the goal_id directly to the Team table because we already store the goal_id in the User table.

So, now the User model is in a relationship with the Team model. So, inside the User model, there is team_id.

Finally, if we need to access how many goals the Team has created then, we can go through User model.

If that type of scenario is generated for your use case then and then you need to define Has Many Through relationship.

I hope it is clear now.

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