String dereferencing allows you direct access to individual characters. The dereferencing syntax is just like accessing an array element by it’s index:

$string = 'This is my awesome string!';

echo 'First Character: ' . $string[0] . "\n";
echo 'Tenth Character: ' . $string[9] . "\n";
echo 'Last Character: ' . $string[strlen($string) - 1] . "\n";

Remember that the index starts at 0 just like an array would.

If you are running PHP 5.5+ you have the added benefit of being able to dereference string literals:

echo 'First Character: ' . 'This is my awesome string!'[0];

Personally, I don’t really see any situation where I’d do this, but I guess someone thought it was a good thing to add support for. Hopefully in the coming PHP releases support for specifying ranges like you can in Python will be added (e.g. $string[0:9]).