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10.9. Returning More Than One Array or Hash


You want a function to return more than one array or hash, but the return list flattens into just one long list of scalars.


Return references to the hashes or arrays:

($array_ref, $hash_ref) = somefunc();

sub somefunc {
    my @array;
    my %hash;

    # ...

    return ( \@array, \%hash );


Just as all arguments collapse into one flat list of scalars, return values do, too. Functions that want to return separate arrays of hashes need to return those by reference, and the caller must be prepared to receive references. If a function wants to return three separate hashes, for example, it should use one of the following:

sub fn { 
    return (\%a, \%b, \%c); # or                           
    return \(%a,  %b,  %c); # same thing

The caller must expect a list of hash references returned out of the function. It cannot just assign to three hashes.

(%h0, %h1, %h2)  = fn();    # WRONG!
@array_of_hashes = fn();    # eg: $array_of_hashes[2]->{"keystring"}
($r0, $r1, $r2)  = fn();    # eg: $r2->{"keystring"}

See Also

The general discussions on references in Chapter 11 , and in Chapter 4 of Programming Perl ; Recipe 10.5

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