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SQL Basics - Quick Revision

This article is for quick revision of SQL basics and have a look at the syntax of SQL statements.

Querying data with the SELECT statement

  • SELECT statement allows us to retrieve one or more rows from one or more tables.
  • Think of SELECT statement as a question you are asking the database.
  • Mostly it contains a list of columns from a table we want to query.
  • Use of * wildcard. But it's better to be explicit rather than using *
  • It's a good practice to table qualify your column names. It's helpful in multi table queries.
  • Aliasing the table name.
  • Alising the column names.
  • Constraining the number of results using WHERE clause and DISTINCT qualifier.
  • DISTINCT for selecting only the unique values.
SELECT 'Hello', 'World'
SELECT first_name FROM person;
SELECT person.first_name, person.last_name FROM person;
SELECT p.first_name, p.last_name FROM person p;
SELECT p.first_name as FirstName, p.last_name as LastName FROM person p;
SELECT DISTINCT p.first_name FROM person p;

Filtering results with the WHERE clause

WHERE clause

  • Constrains the result set.
  • Comes after the FROM clause.
  • Contains boolean expressions.
  • Using Boolean expressions.
  • Use of AND and OR to combine multiple boolean expressions.
SELECT p.first_name FROM person p
WHERE p.last_name = 'Sharma'
AND p.city = 'London';

BETWEEN operator

  • Acts on column and two values.
  • TRUE if column value is between two values.
  • It is inclusive i.e. it includes two values (like >= & <=)
SELECT p.first_name FROM person p
WHERE p.age BETWEEN 13 AND 19;

LIKE operator

  • Fuzzy version of =
  • Allows using String with special characters to do matching.
SELECT p.first_name FROM person p
WHERE p.first_name LIKE 'A%';

IN operator

  • It's a multi-value version of = operator
  • List of potential values.
  • True if any of the values in the list "hit".
SELECT p.first_name FROM person p
WHERE p.last_name IN ('Sharma', 'Modi');

IS operator

  • It's similar to equals operator but only for values that might be null.
SELECT p.first_name FROM person p
WHERE p.last_name IS NULL;

SELECT p.first_name FROM person p
WHERE p.last_name IS NOT NULL;

Shaping results with ORDER BY and GROUP BY

Sometimes we want the result set to be different than the data returned by a simple SELECT statement.

ORDER BY clause

  • Allows sorting of result set.
  • It comes after the WHERE clause.
  • ASC is default order. DESC for descending order.
  • If ORDER BY is not specified then SQL just returns the result in the order they are present in the table.
SELECT p.first_name FROM person p ORDER BY p.age;
SELECT p.first_name FROM person p ORDER BY p.age DESC;

SET function

  • Computes new values from column values.
  • Use in place of columns in SELECT clause.
  • Passes column name to function.
  • Helps us to ask more interesting questions.
  • Often used with DISTINCT qualifier.
COUNTCount of column specified
MAXMaximum value of the column
MINMinimum value of the column
AVGAverage of all values of the column
SUMSum of all values of the column
  • If we want to include NULL values in the our COUNT then use *
SELECT COUNT (p.first_name) FROM person p;
SELECT COUNT (DISTINCT p.first_name) FROM person p;
SELECT AVG (p.age) FROM person p;

GROUP BY clause

  • Create subsets.
  • Allows multiple columns with a set function.
  • Breaks result set into subsets.
  • Runs set function against each subset.
  • Result set returns 1 row per subset.
  • Subset is dictated by column in GROUP BY.
  • Column must appear in the SELECT LIST.
  • Appears after FROM and/or WHERE clauses.
-- What is the count of every
-- unique first name in my contacts?
SELECT COUNT (p.first_name) FROM person p GROUP BY p.first_name;

HAVING clause

  • Works like WHERE works against SELECT
  • restrict GROUP BY
-- What is the count of unique first names in
-- my contacts that appear at least 5 times?
SELECT COUNT (DISTINCT p.first_name) as FirstNameCount, p.first_name
FROM person p
GROUP BY p.first_name
HAVING COUNT FirstNameCount >= 5;

Matching different data tables with JOINs

  • JOINS make the relational model come to life by associating tables together.
  • Merges multiple tables into one result set.


  • Simplest JOIN
  • All rows from both tables
  • Similar to Cartesian Product
  • It is inefficient and should be avoided
SELECT p.first_name, e.email_address FROM person p, email_address e;


  • Most typically used JOIN
  • Emphasizes relational nature of databse
  • Matches column in first table to second
  • Primary key to foreign key is most common
-- What are my contacts email addresses?
SELECT p.first_name, e.email_address FROM person p
INNER JOIN email_address e
ON p.person_id = e.email_address_person_id;


  • INNER JOIN doesn't deal with NULL values but OUTER JOIN works even when with no match in second table.
  • Returns NULL columns if no match in second table and NULL if no match in either table.
  • FULL OUTER JOIN returns all joined rows.


  • All the rows from the left side will be returned.
  • NULL for non matching right side table rows.
-- What are my contacts and their email addresses,
-- including those I don't have an email for?
SELECT p.first_name, e.email_address FROM person p
LEFT OUTER JOIN email_address e
ON p.person_id = e.email_address_person_id;


  • Opposite of LEFT OUTER JOIN
  • Gives all rows from the right side and NULL for non-matching left side table.


  • LEFT and RIGHT OUTER JOIN combined.


  • We can JOIN a table on itself.
  • Useful when table contains hierarchial data.
  • It's a concept which can be used with all other joins by putting the same table name on both sides.

Adding, Changing, and Removing Data

INSERT command

  • Number of column names and values should be equal.
  • Order of column names and values should be same.
INSERT INTO person (person_id, first_name, last_name)
VALUES (1, 'Ayush', 'Sharma'), (2, 'Hello', 'World');

Bulk Insert

INSERT INTO person p SELECT * FROM person_archive pa
WHERE pa.person_id > 100;

UPDATE command

UPDATE email_address e SET e.email_address = 'abc@mail.com'
WHERE e.email_address_id = 5;

DELETE command

  • It's permanent deletion. So use this carefully.
DELETE FROM person p WHERE p.id = 5

Creating Databases and Tables

  • Data Definition Language (DDL) is SQL subset for creating databases and tables.
  • There cannot be two database with same name in a single instance of a database server.


  • USE DATABASE command to scope future queries.
SELECT * FROM Contact.person p;


CREATE TABLE email_address(
email_address_person_id INTEGER,
email_address VARCHAR(256) NOT NULL
Data TypeValue Space
CHARCan hold N character values - set to N statically
VARCHARset to N dynamically - can be less than N
BINARYHexadecimal data
SMALLINT-2^15 to 2^15 -1
INTEGER-2^31 to 2^31 -1
BIGINT-2^63 to 2^63 -1
DATEYEAR, MONTH, and DAY in the format YYYY-MM-DD
TIMEHOUR, MINUTE, and SECOND in the format HH:MM:SS[.sF]
  • NULL is default for a column definition. If it is NOT NULL then it must be specified on column definition.


  • Must be a unique value per row.
  • Must be NOT NULL
  • Can be multiple columns (compound key)


  • Just a good practice to put all the constraints at the end of table creation


  • Used to change the structure of existing table.
  • Changes need to match the existing data.
ALTER TABLE email_address
ADD CONSTRAINT FK_email_address_person
FOREIGN KEY (email_address_person_id)
REFERENCES person (person_id);


  • Removes table and all data from database, so be careful!
  • Error if table is a foregin key to another table.

Learning check

  • Relational database theory is based partly on relational algebra.
  • A common use of a Set function is to find out the number of rows in a table.
  • The GROUP BY clause enables us to add a single column to a select list that includes a Set function.
  • To rollback a DELETE statement, run the DELETE statement in the context of a SQL Transaction.
  • By default the columns can have NULL values in them unless a NOT NULL contraint is applied.
  • INSERT UPDATE DELTE only applies to one table at a time.
  • AND and OR enables us to add multiple expressions in the WHERE clause.
  • ALTER TABLE allows us to change columns and constraints.

I hope this was useful. let me know your feedback in the comments below.

- Ayush 🙂