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Chapter 7. Queries

The previous chapters explained how to create tables, how to fill them with data, and how to manipulate that data. Now we finally discuss how to retrieve the data out of the database.

7.1. Overview

The process of retrieving or the command to retrieve data from a database is called a query. In SQL the SELECT command is used to specify queries. The general syntax of the SELECT command is

SELECT select_list FROM table_expression [sort_specification]

The following sections describe the details of the select list, the table expression, and the sort specification.

A simple kind of query has the form

SELECT * FROM table1;

Assuming that there is a table called table1, this command would retrieve all rows and all columns from table1. (The method of retrieval depends on the client application. For example, the psql program will display an ASCII-art table on the screen, while client libraries will offer functions to extract individual values from the query result.) The select list specification * means all columns that the table expression happens to provide. A select list can also select a subset of the available columns or make calculations using the columns. For example, if table1 has columns named a, b, and c (and perhaps others) you can make the following query:

SELECT a, b + c FROM table1;

(assuming that b and c are of a numerical data type). See Section 7.3 for more details.

FROM table1 is a particularly simple kind of table expression: it reads just one table. In general, table expressions can be complex constructs of base tables, joins, and subqueries. But you can also omit the table expression entirely and use the SELECT command as a calculator:

SELECT 3 * 4;

This is more useful if the expressions in the select list return varying results. For example, you could call a function this way:

SELECT random();
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