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6.15. Subquery Expressions

This section describes the SQL-compliant subquery expressions available in PostgreSQL. All of the expression forms documented in this section return Boolean (true/false) results.

6.15.1. EXISTS

EXISTS ( subquery )

The argument of EXISTS is an arbitrary SELECT statement, or subquery. The subquery is evaluated to determine whether it returns any rows. If it returns at least one row, the result of EXISTS is "true"; if the subquery returns no rows, the result of EXISTS is "false".

The subquery can refer to variables from the surrounding query, which will act as constants during any one evaluation of the subquery.

The subquery will generally only be executed far enough to determine whether at least one row is returned, not all the way to completion. It is unwise to write a subquery that has any side effects (such as calling sequence functions); whether the side effects occur or not may be difficult to predict.

Since the result depends only on whether any rows are returned, and not on the contents of those rows, the output list of the subquery is normally uninteresting. A common coding convention is to write all EXISTS tests in the form EXISTS(SELECT 1 WHERE ...). There are exceptions to this rule however, such as subqueries that use INTERSECT.

This simple example is like an inner join on col2, but it produces at most one output row for each tab1 row, even if there are multiple matching tab2 rows:

SELECT col1 FROM tab1
    WHERE EXISTS(SELECT 1 FROM tab2 WHERE col2 = tab1.col2);

6.15.2. IN (scalar form)

expression IN (value[, ...])

The right-hand side of this form of IN is a parenthesized list of scalar expressions. The result is "true" if the left-hand expression's result is equal to any of the right-hand expressions. This is a shorthand notation for

expression = value1
OR
expression = value2
OR
...

Note that if the left-hand expression yields null, or if there are no equal right-hand values and at least one right-hand expression yields null, the result of the IN construct will be null, not false. This is in accordance with SQL's normal rules for Boolean combinations of null values.

Note: This form of IN is not truly a subquery expression, but it seems best to document it in the same place as subquery IN.

6.15.3. IN (subquery form)

expression IN (subquery)

The right-hand side of this form of IN is a parenthesized subquery, which must return exactly one column. The left-hand expression is evaluated and compared to each row of the subquery result. The result of IN is "true" if any equal subquery row is found. The result is "false" if no equal row is found (including the special case where the subquery returns no rows).

Note that if the left-hand expression yields null, or if there are no equal right-hand values and at least one right-hand row yields null, the result of the IN construct will be null, not false. This is in accordance with SQL's normal rules for Boolean combinations of null values.

As with EXISTS, it's unwise to assume that the subquery will be evaluated completely.

(expression [, expression ...]) IN (subquery)

The right-hand side of this form of IN is a parenthesized subquery, which must return exactly as many columns as there are expressions in the left-hand list. The left-hand expressions are evaluated and compared row-wise to each row of the subquery result. The result of IN is "true" if any equal subquery row is found. The result is "false" if no equal row is found (including the special case where the subquery returns no rows).

As usual, null values in the expressions or subquery rows are combined per the normal rules of SQL Boolean expressions. Two rows are considered equal if all their corresponding members are non-null and equal; the rows are unequal if any corresponding members are non-null and unequal; otherwise the result of that row comparison is unknown (null). If all the row results are either unequal or null, with at least one null, then the result of IN is null.

6.15.4. NOT IN (scalar form)

expression NOT IN (value[, ...])

The right-hand side of this form of NOT IN is a parenthesized list of scalar expressions. The result is "true" if the left-hand expression's result is unequal to all of the right-hand expressions. This is a shorthand notation for

expression <> value1
AND
expression <> value2
AND
...

Note that if the left-hand expression yields null, or if there are no equal right-hand values and at least one right-hand expression yields null, the result of the NOT IN construct will be null, not true as one might naively expect. This is in accordance with SQL's normal rules for Boolean combinations of null values.

Tip: x NOT IN y is equivalent to NOT (x IN y) in all cases. However, null values are much more likely to trip up the novice when working with NOT IN than when working with IN. It's best to express your condition positively if possible.

6.15.5. NOT IN (subquery form)

expression NOT IN (subquery)

The right-hand side of this form of NOT IN is a parenthesized subquery, which must return exactly one column. The left-hand expression is evaluated and compared to each row of the subquery result. The result of NOT IN is "true" if only unequal subquery rows are found (including the special case where the subquery returns no rows). The result is "false" if any equal row is found.

Note that if the left-hand expression yields null, or if there are no equal right-hand values and at least one right-hand row yields null, the result of the NOT IN construct will be null, not true. This is in accordance with SQL's normal rules for Boolean combinations of null values.

As with EXISTS, it's unwise to assume that the subquery will be evaluated completely.

(expression [, expression ...]) NOT IN (subquery)

The right-hand side of this form of NOT IN is a parenthesized subquery, which must return exactly as many columns as there are expressions in the left-hand list. The left-hand expressions are evaluated and compared row-wise to each row of the subquery result. The result of NOT IN is "true" if only unequal subquery rows are found (including the special case where the subquery returns no rows). The result is "false" if any equal row is found.

As usual, null values in the expressions or subquery rows are combined per the normal rules of SQL Boolean expressions. Two rows are considered equal if all their corresponding members are non-null and equal; the rows are unequal if any corresponding members are non-null and unequal; otherwise the result of that row comparison is unknown (null). If all the row results are either unequal or null, with at least one null, then the result of NOT IN is null.

6.15.6. ANY/SOME

expression operator ANY (subquery)
expression operator SOME (subquery)

The right-hand side of this form of ANY is a parenthesized subquery, which must return exactly one column. The left-hand expression is evaluated and compared to each row of the subquery result using the given operator, which must yield a Boolean result. The result of ANY is "true" if any true result is obtained. The result is "false" if no true result is found (including the special case where the subquery returns no rows).

SOME is a synonym for ANY. IN is equivalent to = ANY.

Note that if there are no successes and at least one right-hand row yields null for the operator's result, the result of the ANY construct will be null, not false. This is in accordance with SQL's normal rules for Boolean combinations of null values.

As with EXISTS, it's unwise to assume that the subquery will be evaluated completely.

(expression [, expression ...]) operator ANY (subquery)
(expression [, expression ...]) operator SOME (subquery)

The right-hand side of this form of ANY is a parenthesized subquery, which must return exactly as many columns as there are expressions in the left-hand list. The left-hand expressions are evaluated and compared row-wise to each row of the subquery result, using the given operator. Presently, only = and <> operators are allowed in row-wise ANY queries. The result of ANY is "true" if any equal or unequal row is found, respectively. The result is "false" if no such row is found (including the special case where the subquery returns no rows).

As usual, null values in the expressions or subquery rows are combined per the normal rules of SQL Boolean expressions. Two rows are considered equal if all their corresponding members are non-null and equal; the rows are unequal if any corresponding members are non-null and unequal; otherwise the result of that row comparison is unknown (null). If there is at least one null row result, then the result of ANY cannot be false; it will be true or null.

6.15.7. ALL

expression operator ALL (subquery)

The right-hand side of this form of ALL is a parenthesized subquery, which must return exactly one column. The left-hand expression is evaluated and compared to each row of the subquery result using the given operator, which must yield a Boolean result. The result of ALL is "true" if all rows yield true (including the special case where the subquery returns no rows). The result is "false" if any false result is found.

NOT IN is equivalent to <> ALL.

Note that if there are no failures but at least one right-hand row yields null for the operator's result, the result of the ALL construct will be null, not true. This is in accordance with SQL's normal rules for Boolean combinations of null values.

As with EXISTS, it's unwise to assume that the subquery will be evaluated completely.

(expression [, expression ...]) operator ALL (subquery)
   

The right-hand side of this form of ALL is a parenthesized subquery, which must return exactly as many columns as there are expressions in the left-hand list. The left-hand expressions are evaluated and compared row-wise to each row of the subquery result, using the given operator. Presently, only = and <> operators are allowed in row-wise ALL queries. The result of ALL is "true" if all subquery rows are equal or unequal, respectively (including the special case where the subquery returns no rows). The result is "false" if any row is found to be unequal or equal, respectively.

As usual, null values in the expressions or subquery rows are combined per the normal rules of SQL Boolean expressions. Two rows are considered equal if all their corresponding members are non-null and equal; the rows are unequal if any corresponding members are non-null and unequal; otherwise the result of that row comparison is unknown (null). If there is at least one null row result, then the result of ALL cannot be true; it will be false or null.

6.15.8. Row-wise Comparison

(expression [, expression ...]) operator (subquery)
(expression [, expression ...]) operator (expression [, expression ...])
   

The left-hand side is a list of scalar expressions. The right-hand side can be either a list of scalar expressions of the same length, or a parenthesized subquery, which must return exactly as many columns as there are expressions on the left-hand side. Furthermore, the subquery cannot return more than one row. (If it returns zero rows, the result is taken to be null.) The left-hand side is evaluated and compared row-wise to the single subquery result row, or to the right-hand expression list. Presently, only = and <> operators are allowed in row-wise comparisons. The result is "true" if the two rows are equal or unequal, respectively.

As usual, null values in the expressions or subquery rows are combined per the normal rules of SQL Boolean expressions. Two rows are considered equal if all their corresponding members are non-null and equal; the rows are unequal if any corresponding members are non-null and unequal; otherwise the result of the row comparison is unknown (null).

Comments


May 7, 2003, 5:04 a.m.

The documentation for IN (subquery) is wrong; you can do multi-column IN clauses:

select * from t1 where (f1, f2) IN (select f1, f2 from t2);
f1 | f2
----+----
1 | 1


April 7, 2006, 9:24 p.m.

I concurr, the multi-column IN (subquery) works for me too.

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