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.


The menu item’s starting HTML output.
Menu item data object.
Depth of menu item. Used for padding.
An object of wp_nav_menu() arguments.
More Arguments from wp_nav_menu( … $args )Array of nav menu arguments.
  • menu int|string|WP_Term
    Desired menu. Accepts a menu ID, slug, name, or object.
  • menu_class string
    CSS class to use for the ul element which forms the menu.
    Default 'menu'.
  • menu_id string
    The ID that is applied to the ul element which forms the menu.
    Default is the menu slug, incremented.
  • container string
    Whether to wrap the ul, and what to wrap it with.
    Default 'div'.
  • container_class string
    Class that is applied to the container.
    Default ‘menu-{menu slug}-container’.
  • container_id string
    The ID that is applied to the container.
  • container_aria_label string
    The aria-label attribute that is applied to the container when it’s a nav element.
  • fallback_cb callable|false
    If the menu doesn’t exist, a callback function will fire.
    Default is 'wp_page_menu'. Set to false for no fallback.
  • before string
    Text before the link markup.
  • after string
    Text after the link markup.
  • link_before string
    Text before the link text.
  • link_after string
    Text after the link text.
  • echo bool
    Whether to echo the menu or return it. Default true.
  • depth int
    How many levels of the hierarchy are to be included.
    0 means all. Default 0.
    Default 0.
  • walker object
    Instance of a custom walker class.
  • theme_location string
    Theme location to be used. Must be registered with register_nav_menu() in order to be selectable by the user.
  • items_wrap string
    How the list items should be wrapped. Uses printf() format with numbered placeholders. Default is a ul with an id and class.
  • item_spacing string
    Whether to preserve whitespace within the menu’s HTML.
    Accepts 'preserve' or 'discard'. Default 'preserve'.


$output .= apply_filters( 'walker_nav_menu_start_el', $item_output, $menu_item, $depth, $args );



User Contributed Notes

  1. Skip to note 3 content

    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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