apply_filters( 'walker_nav_menu_start_el', string $item_output, WP_Post $menu_item, int $depth, stdClass $args )

Filters a menu item’s starting output.


The menu item’s starting output only includes $args->before, the opening <a>, the menu item’s title, the closing </a>, and $args->after. Currently, there is no filter for modifying the opening and closing <li> for a menu item.

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(string) The menu item's starting HTML output.


(WP_Post) Menu item data object.


(int) Depth of menu item. Used for padding.


(stdClass) An object of wp_nav_menu() arguments.

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File: wp-includes/class-walker-nav-menu.php

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Version Description
3.0.0 Introduced.

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User Contributed Notes

  1. Skip to note 1 content
    Contributed by damchtlv

    This hook is useful when you want to add extra html to a menu item output.
    Example: add a custom sub menu based on a menu item that has a class “menu-item-target”

     *  Menu items - Add "Custom sub-menu" in menu item render output
     *  if menu item has class "menu-item-target"
    add_filter( 'walker_nav_menu_start_el', 'wpdocs_menu_item_custom_output', 10, 4 );
    function wpdocs_menu_item_custom_output( $item_output, $item, $depth, $args ) {
        $menu_item_classes = $item->classes;
        if ( empty( $menu_item_classes ) || !in_array( 'menu-item-target', $menu_item_classes ) ) {
            return $item_output;
        <ul class="custom-sub-menu">
            <li class="custom-menu-item">
                <a href="#custom-url">
                    <?php _e( 'My text', 'wpdocs' ); ?>
        $custom_sub_menu_html = ob_get_clean();
        // Append after <a> element of the menu item targeted
        $item_output .= $custom_sub_menu_html;
        return $item_output;

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