SQL is a Structured Query Language that uses a relational database. A relational database represents a collection of related 2D tables, like spreadsheet. Tables of information about a certain thing hold rows that are specific instances of that thing with columns that show shared characteristics of those instances.

Database schemas describe the structure of each table and the datatypes that each column can contain.

Basic Syntax Rules

NOTE: Most of this document pertains to MySQL.

The end of a query is denoted with a semicolon.

Comments are made with --.

Whitespace and line returns are optional but often added for readability.

SQL queries are case insensitive, but by convention, the SQL commands and keywords are place in all capital letters to be easier to read by humans.

Tables and columns can be escaped by using backticks to avoid overlaps with reserved words.[9]

Creating/Using Databases

First, you want to see what databases exist using the SHOW DATABASES keyword.


We will use the CREATE DATABASE keyword to initialize a database. TO enter into the database

USE name;

Creating/Altering Tables



What it sounds like, will make a new table. Use IF NOT EXISTS to skip if table exists. The structure of the table is defined by its table schema, which is a series of columns in the following parentheses.

CREATE TABLE friends (
  column DataType TableConstraint DEFAULT dafault_value,
  dog_name VARCHAR(10),
  good_boy INTEGER DEFAULT 1  -- Boolean, default is TRUE


Choose the table you want to modify with ALTER TABLE followed by the table name. Columns can be added by using the ADD COLUMN statement[6], removed by using the DROP statement, and renamed with RENAME TO.

RENAME TO dog_types
ADD COLUMN breed VARCHAR(20) AFTER col_name  -- can also use FIRST
DROP dog_name;


(Necessary XKCD): "Little Bobby Tables"

DROP TABLE will remove an entire table and all of the data from the database. IF EXISTS will make sure no error is thrown if the table doesn't exist.


Table Data Types

Data type Description
INTEGER, BOOLEAN The integer datatypes can store whole integer values like the count of a number or an age. In some implementations, the boolean value is just represented as an integer value of just 0 or 1.
FLOAT, DOUBLE, REAL The floating point datatypes can store more precise numerical data like measurements or fractional values. Different types can be used depending on the floating point precision required for that value.
CHARACTER(num_chars), VARCHAR(num_chars), TEXT The text based datatypes can store strings and text in all sorts of locales. The distinction between the various types generally amount to underlaying efficiency of the database when working with these columns. Both the CHARACTER and VARCHAR (variable character) types are specified with the max number of characters that they can store (longer values may be truncated), so can be more efficient to store and query with big tables.
DATE, DATETIME SQL can also store date and time stamps to keep track of time series and event data. They can be tricky to work with especially when manipulating data across timezones.
BLOB Finally, SQL can store binary data in blobs right in the database. These values are often opaque to the database, so you usually have to store them with the right metadata to requery them.

Table Constraints

Constraints are a special expression in the table's initialization that directs the table to operate in a specific way.

  name TEXT,
  PRIMARY KEY(product_id)

  product_id INT,
  FOREIGN KEY(product_id)
    REFERENCES products(product_id)
Constraint Description
PRIMARY KEY This means that the values in this column are unique, and each value can be used to identify a single row in this table.
AUTOINCREMENT For integer values, this means that the value is automatically filled in and incremented with each row insertion. Not supported in all databases.
UNIQUE This means that the values in this column have to be unique, so you can't insert another row with the same value in this column as another row in the table. Differs from the PRIMARY KEY in that it doesn't have to be a key for a row in the table.
NOT NULL This means that the inserted value can not be NULL.
CHECK (expression) This allows you to run a more complex expression to test whether the values inserted are valid. For example, you can check that values are positive, or greater than a specific size, or start with a certain prefix, etc.
FOREIGN KEY This is a consistency check which ensures that each value in this column corresponds to another value in a column in another table. For example, if there are two tables, one listing all Employees by ID, and another listing their payroll information, the FOREIGN KEY can ensure that every row in the payroll table corresponds to a valid employee in the master Employee list.

Queries/Retrieving Data

SELECT...FROM statements are queries of column FROM table. DISTINCT will remove results that are the same, meaning that they have matching sets of columns in the return. Certain columns could have duplicate values, but ALL of the columns need to match up to another result for it to be considered a duplicate.

SELECT columnName, anotherColumn
FROM tableName;

SELECT DISTINCT columnName, anotherColumn
FROM tableName;


The WHERE clause helps filter out results via a condition. AND or OR can be used to chain these.

SELECT columnName, anotherColumn
FROM tableName
WHERE a = b
  AND a = c
  OR c = b

Results of a query can be sorted via the ORDER BY keywords, followed by ASC or DESC (ASC is the default).

SELECT columnName, anotherColumn
FROM tableName
WHERE a = b
ORDER BY columnName ASC;

Results can also be tested against whether a column's value is within a list of values.

SELECT columnName, anotherColumn
FROM tableName
WHERE a IN ('list', 'of', 'values');


Results can be limited via the LIMIT and the OFFSET keywords. "The LIMIT will reduce the number of rows to return, and the optional OFFSET will specify where to begin counting the number rows from."

LIMIT num_limit OFFSET num_offset


CONCAT allows you to group the values of multiple fields together and call it a new 'field' upon return. CONCAT can take multiple arguments and strings to affix together.

FROM clients c
WHERE c.client = 17
  AND c.client IN (
    # The following line combines the values of `active_client` and `alt_clients`, separated by a comma
    # and effectively creates a new field called 'all_clients'.
    SELECT CONCAT(active_client, ',', alt_clients) AS all_clients
    FROM users
    WHERE userId = 7070


We can join the data within two or more tables with the JOIN clause. The two tables can be linked by a certain column with ON followed by an expression. (note: OUTER is added in as a legacy keyword for SQL-92)


Inclusive JOINs will use the ON table1.key = table2.key, matching one column to another. Exclusive JOINs follow this with a filter on the focused table set to WHERE table.key IS NULL.

Where n is the two table's intersection, u is the union of the two tables, and - is exclusion.

-- This is a venn diagram with both circles fully selected
FROM table1
FULL JOIN table2 -- or INNER or LEFT, etc.
  ON table1.id = table2.id
-- This can be altered to exclude what overlaps
WHERE table1.id IS NULL
  OR table2.id IS NULL


Expressions, columns, and tables can all be given aliases using the AS keyword.

SELECT col_name AS foo -- 'col_name' has been aliased to 'foo'
FROM table_name AS bar; -- 'table_name' has been aliased to 'bar'

Aggregate Functions

Aggregate functions run on the entire column. They include operations like COUNT, MIN, MAX, AVG, and SUM, with the desired columns surrounded by parentheses.

-- returns a single entry with number of entries in col_name
SELECT COUNT(col_name)
FROM table_name;

-- returns a single entry with lowest ERA of all pitcher data
FROM pitcher_stats;

These functions can also be run on subsections of these columns using GROUP BY, followed by which segments should be calculated together.

-- returns an entry for the player with lowest ERA on each team
SELECT player_name,
  MIN(era) FROM pitcher_stats
GROUP BY team_name;

Further filtering of what should be included in each GROUP can be done with HAVING, which operates like WHERE on the GROUP BY element.

-- returns an entry for the player with lowest ERA above 2 on each team
SELECT player_name,
  MIN(era) FROM pitcher_stats
GROUP BY team_name
HAVING era > 2;

EXISTS - Boolean Check[5]

You can use SELECT EXISTS (...) with an enclosed query to return either a 0 (false) or 1 (true) on if any rows were returned.

-- will return 1 if any rows are found where the name field contains 'John'
  FROM example_table
  WHERE name = 'John'

Order of Query Execution

  1. FROM and JOIN (loading in data)
  2. WHERE (filtering data)
  3. GROUP BY (creating groups)
  4. HAVING (filtering data for each group)
  5. SELECT (selecting the columns)
  6. DISTINCT (removing duplicates)
  7. ORDER BY (organizing results)
  8. LIMIT and OFFSET (limiting results)

Adding/Changing Rows


The INSERT INTO statement describes which table will have data inserted, and the VALUES statement includes all the values of the given row that will go into each column enclosed by parentheses and separated by commas within it. VALUES can correspond to multiple rows by separating the sets of values by commas.

With incomplete data or default values, you can choose which exact columns you want to add data to by following INSERT INTO table_name with a set of columns within parentheses and separated by commas. Inserting data this way ensures forward compatibility, as any new columns that are hardcoded into later versions of the table will not be affected.

INSERT INTO mytable (column_name, another_column_name)
VALUES (value_or_expr, another_value_or_expr),
  (value_or_expr_2, another_value_or_expr_2);


UPDATE is followed by the name of the table, with SET followed by column_name = value_or_expr pairs. These can be used in conjunction with WHERE to filter which rows you want updated.

It is recommended to query the items you are going to update before updating them, to ensure you are correctly select what you want.

-- Update all costs of candy in food I like by raising them 3%
UPDATE food_i_like
SET cost = cost * 1.03,
  updated = "2021-01-01"
  type = "candy";


The DELETE statement describes the table to focus on, with WHERE describing which rows to delete (leaving out WHERE will delete the entire table!). If you only are trying to get rid of one thing, use LIMIT 1 to redundantly ensure you do.

It is recommended to query the items you are going to delete before updating them, to ensure you are correctly selecting what you want.

DELETE FROM food_i_like
WHERE name = "Good & Plenty"  -- always have WHERE to limit deletion
LIMIT 1;  -- always include this to limit deletion to ONLY one row


A SQL variable is defined by calling DECLARE followed by the variable name preceded by the @ symbol, after which you declare the type. To set the value, use the SET keyword followed by the assignment. In MySQL, you only use the SET keyword followed by either an equals or a colon-equals.

DECLARE @NewVariable AS VARCHAR(50);
SET @NewVariable = "Cool!";

Meta Operators

Name Function
(boolean expression) AND (boolean expression) WIll return true if both are true
(boolean expression) OR (boolean expression) Will return if either is true

Conditional Operators

Operator Condition SQL Example
=, !=, < <=, >, >= Standard numerical operators col_name != 4
BETWEEN … AND … Number is within range of two values (inclusive) col_name BETWEEN 1.5 AND 10.5
NOT BETWEEN … AND … Number is not within range of two values (inclusive) col_name NOT BETWEEN 1 AND 10
IN (…) Number exists in a list col_name IN (2, 4, 6)
NOT IN (…) Number does not exist in a list col_name NOT IN (1, 3, 5)
IS NULL/IS NOT NULL Value is or is not NULL col_name IS/IS NOT NULL


Many different types of expressions can be used with: WHERE to better filter results; and SELECT to create new columns of results (column expressions). While there are a few different types of expressions, the examples below are both numeric type expressions. Expressions can also utilize aggregate functions.

-- Used in WHERE; filters above 0° Celsius
SELECT Temperature FROM 2000_Temp_Data
WHERE ((Temperature - 32) * 5) / 9 > 0;

-- Used in a column expression, displays another column named 'Celsius'
SELECT Fahrenheit, ((Temperature - 32) * 5) / 9 AS Celsius
FROM 2000_Temp_Data;


There are many different opinions about how to format correctly (see below), but the one that I believe to be the most readable is formatted as such, with the capitalized INSTRUCTION on one line and lowercase args on the following line with indentation. Indentation is also used to define subqueries and bracketed blocks, with terminating brackets on their own line. AND and OR should start their lines and should not reside at the end.

      champions AS c
      c.last_name = r.last_name
      AND c.confirmed = 'Y'
  ) AS last_championship_year
  riders AS r
  r.last_name IN (
      champions AS c
      YEAR(championship_date) > '2008'
      AND c.confirmed = 'Y'


  1. Common SQL Queries
  2. https://sqlbolt.com/
  3. https://www.mysqltutorial.org/mysql-primary-key/
  4. https://www.educba.com/mysql-constraints/
  5. https://www.tutorialspoint.com/best-way-to-test-if-a-row-exists-in-a-mysql-table
  6. https://www.mysqltutorial.org/mysql-add-column/
  7. Schema Design: https://ondras.zarovi.cz/sql/demo/
  8. Formatting:
    1. https://www.sqlstyle.guide/
    2. https://docs.telemetry.mozilla.org/concepts/sql_style.html
    3. https://learnsql.com/blog/24-rules-sql-code-formatting-standard/
    4. https://stackoverflow.com/questions/519876/sql-formatting-standards
    5. https://www.sqlfluff.com/
  9. https://devtut.github.io/mysql/backticks.html
Incoming Links

Last modified: 202212070107