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SQL-Data Statements

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SQL-Data Statements

SQL-Data Statements perform query and modification on database tables and columns.

This subset of SQL is also called the Data Manipulation Language for SQL (SQL DML).



SELECT Statement Basics

The SQL SELECT statement queries data from tables in the database. The statement begins with the SELECT keyword. The basic SELECT statement has 3 clauses:

  • FROM

The SELECT clause specifies the table columns that are retrieved. The FROM clause specifies the tables accessed. The WHERE clause specifies which table rows are used. The WHERE clause is optional; if missing, all table rows are used.

For example,

    SELECT name FROM s WHERE city='Rome'

This query accesses rows from the table - s. It then filters those rows where the city column contains Rome. Finally, the query retrieves the name column from each filtered row. Using the example s table, this query produces:


A detailed description of the query actions:

  • The FROM clause accesses the s table. Contents:
      sno name city
      S1 Pierre Paris
      S2 John London
      S3 Mario Rome

  • The WHERE clause filters the rows of the FROM table to use those whose city column contains Rome. This chooses a single row from s:
      sno name city
      S3 Mario Rome

  • The SELECT clause retrieves the name column from the rows filtered by the WHERE clause:

The remainder of this subsection examines the 3 major clauses of the SELECT statement, detailing their syntax and semantics:

Extended query capabilities are covered in the next sub-section.


The SELECT clause is mandatory. It specifies a list of columns to be retrieved from the tables in the FROM clause. It has the following general format:

    SELECT [ALL|DISTINCT] select-list

select-list is a list of column names separated by commas. The ALL and DISTINCT specifiers are optional. DISTINCT specifies that duplicate rows are discarded. A duplicate row is when each corresponding select-list column has the same value. The default is ALL, which retains duplicate rows.

For example,

    SELECT descr, color FROM p

The column names in the select list can be qualified by the appropriate table name:

    SELECT p.descr, p.color FROM p

A column in the select list can be renamed by following the column name with the new name. For example:

    SELECT name supplier, city location FROM s

This produces:

    supplier location
    Pierre Paris
    John London
    Mario Rome

The select list may also contain expressions. See Expressions.

A special select list consisting of a single '*' requests all columns in all tables in the FROM clause. For example,

    sno pno qty
    S1 P1 NULL
    S2 P1 200
    S3 P1 1000
    S3 P2 200

The * delimiter will retrieve just the columns of a single table when qualified by the table name. For example:

    SELECT sp.* FROM sp

This produces the same result as the previous example.

An unqualified * cannot be combined with other elements in the select list; it must be stand alone. However, a qualified * can be combined with other elements. For example,

    SELECT sp.*, city
    FROM sp, s
    WHERE sp.sno=s.sno

    sno pno qty city
    S1 P1 NULL Paris
    S2 P1 200 London
    S3 P1 1000 Rome
    S3 P2 200 Rome

Note: this is an example of a query joining 2 tables. See Joining Tables.

FROM Clause

The FROM clause always follows the SELECT clause. It lists the tables accessed by the query. For example,


When the From List contains multiple tables, commas separate the table names. For example,

    SELECT sp.*, city
    FROM sp, s
    WHERE sp.sno=s.sno

When the From List has multiple tables, they must be joined together. See Joining Tables.

Correlation Names

Like columns in the select list, tables in the from list can be renamed by following the table name with the new name. For example,

    SELECT FROM s supplier

The new name is known as the correlation (or range) name for the table. Self joins require correlation names.

WHERE Clause

The WHERE clause is optional. When specified, it always follows the FROM clause. The WHERE clause filters rows from the FROM clause tables. Omitting the WHERE clause specifies that all rows are used.

Following the WHERE keyword is a logical expression, also known as a predicate.

The predicate evaluates to a SQL logical value -- true, false or unknown. The most basic predicate is a comparison:

    color = 'Red'

This predicate returns:

  • true -- if the color column contains the string value -- 'Red',
  • false -- if the color column contains another string value (not 'Red'), or
  • unknown -- if the color column contains null.

Generally, a comparison expression compares the contents of a table column to a literal, as above. A comparison expression may also compare two columns to each other. Table joins use this type of comparison. See Joining Tables.

The = (equals) comparison operator compares two values for equality. Additional comparison operators are:

  • > -- greater than
  • < -- less than
  • >= -- greater than or equal to
  • <= -- less than or equal to
  • <> -- not equal to

For example,

    SELECT * FROM sp WHERE qty >= 200

    sno pno qty
    S2 P1 200
    S3 P1 1000
    S3 P2 200

Note: In the sp table, the qty column for one of the rows contains null. The comparison - qty >= 200, evaluates to unknown for this row. In the final result of a query, rows with a WHERE clause evaluating to unknown (or false) are eliminated (filtered out).

Both operands of a comparison should be the same data type, however automatic conversions are performed between numeric, datetime and interval types. The CAST expression provides explicit type conversions; see Expressions.

Extended Comparisons

In addition to the basic comparisons described above, SQL supports extended comparison operators -- BETWEEN, IN, LIKE and IS NULL.

  • BETWEEN Operator

    The BETWEEN operator implements a range comparison, that is, it tests whether a value is between two other values. BETWEEN comparisons have the following format:

      value-1 [NOT] BETWEEN value-2 AND value-3

    This comparison tests if value-1 is greater than or equal to value-2 and less than or equal to value-3. It is equivalent to the following predicate:

      value-1 >= value-2 AND value-1 <= value-3

    Or, if NOT is included:

      NOT (value-1 >= value-2 AND value-1 <= value-3)

    For example,

      SELECT *
      FROM sp
      WHERE qty BETWEEN 50 and 500

      sno pno qty
      S2 P1 200
      S3 P2 200


  • IN Operator

    The IN operator implements comparison to a list of values, that is, it tests whether a value matches any value in a list of values. IN comparisons have the following general format:

      value-1 [NOT] IN ( value-2 [, value-3] ... )

    This comparison tests if value-1 matches value-2 or matches value-3, and so on. It is equivalent to the following logical predicate:

      value-1 = value-2 [ OR value-1 = value-3 ] ...

    or if NOT is included:

      NOT (value-1 = value-2 [ OR value-1 = value-3 ] ...)

    For example,

      SELECT name FROM s WHERE city IN ('Rome','Paris')



  • LIKE Operator

    The LIKE operator implements a pattern match comparison, that is, it matches a string value against a pattern string containing wild-card characters.

    The wild-card characters for LIKE are percent -- '%' and underscore -- '_'. Underscore matches any single character. Percent matches zero or more characters.



    Match Value Pattern Result
    'abc' '_b_' True
    'ab' '_b_' False
    'abc' '%b%' True
    'ab' '%b%' True
    'abc' 'a_' False
    'ab' 'a_' True
    'abc' 'a%_' True
    'ab' 'a%_' True

    LIKE comparison has the following general format:

      value-1 [NOT] LIKE value-2 [ESCAPE value-3]

    All values must be string (character). This comparison uses value-2 as a pattern to match value-1. The optional ESCAPE sub-clause specifies an escape character for the pattern, allowing the pattern to use '%' and '_' (and the escape character) for matching. The ESCAPE value must be a single character string. In the pattern, the ESCAPE character precedes any character to be escaped.

    For example, to match a string ending with '%', use:

      x LIKE '%/%' ESCAPE '/'

    A more contrived example that escapes the escape character:

      y LIKE '/%//%' ESCAPE '/'

    ... matches any string beginning with '%/'.

    The optional NOT reverses the result so that:

      z NOT LIKE 'abc%'

    is equivalent to:

      NOT z LIKE 'abc%'


  • IS NULL Operator

    A database null in a table column has a special meaning -- the value of the column is not currently known (missing), however its value may be known at a later time. A database null may represent any value in the future, but the value is not available at this time. Since two null columns may eventually be assigned different values, one null can't be compared to another in the conventional way. The following syntax is illegal in SQL:

      WHERE qty = NULL

    A special comparison operator -- IS NULL, tests a column for null. It has the following general format:

      value-1 IS [NOT] NULL

    This comparison returns true if value-1 contains a null and false otherwise. The optional NOT reverses the result:

      value-1 IS NOT NULL

    is equivalent to:

      NOT value-1 IS NULL

    For example,


      sno pno qty
      S1 P1 NULL

Logical Operators

The logical operators are AND, OR, NOT. They take logical expressions as operands and produce a logical result (True, False, Unknown). In logical expressions, parentheses are used for grouping.

  • AND Operator

    The AND operator combines two logical operands. The operands are comparisons or logical expressions. It has the following general format:

      predicate-1 AND predicate-2

    AND returns:


    • True -- if both operands evaluate to true
    • False -- if either operand evaluates to false
    • Unknown -- otherwise (one operand is true and the other is unknown or both are unknown)

    Truth tables for AND:


    AND  T   F   U 
     T   T   F   U 
     F   F   F   F 
     U   U   F   U 
    Input 1 Input 2 AND Result
    True True True
    True False False
    False False False
    False True False
    Unknown Unknown Unknown
    Unknown True Unknown
    Unknown False False
    True Unknown Unknown
    False Unknown False

    For example,

      SELECT *
      FROM sp
      WHERE sno='S3' AND qty < 500

      sno pno qty
      S3 P2 200


  • OR Operator

    The OR operator combines two logical operands. The operands are comparisons or logical expressions. It has the following general format:

      predicate-1 OR predicate-2

    OR returns:


    • True -- if either operand evaluates to true
    • False -- if both operands evaluate to false
    • Unknown -- otherwise (one operand is false and the other is unknown or both are unknown)

    Truth tables for OR:


    OR  T   F   U 
     T   T   T   T 
     F   T   F   U 
     U   T   U   U 
    Input 1 Input 2 OR Result
    True True True
    True False True
    False False False
    False True True
    Unknown Unknown Unknown
    Unknown True True
    Unknown False Unknown
    True Unknown True
    False Unknown Unknown

    For example,

      SELECT *
      FROM s
      WHERE sno='S3' OR city = 'London'

      sno name city
      S2 John London
      S3 Mario Rome

    AND has a higher precedence than OR, so the following expression:

      a OR b AND c

    is equivalent to:

      a OR (b AND c)

  • NOT Operator

    The NOT operator inverts the result of a comparison expression or a logical expression. It has the following general format:

      NOT predicate-1

    Truth tables for NOT:


     T   F 
     F   T 
     U   U 
    Input NOT Result
    True False
    False True
    Unknown Unknown

    Example query:

      SELECT *
      FROM sp
      WHERE NOT sno = 'S3'

      sno pno qty
      S1 P1 NULL
      S2 P1 200

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