Introduction to Distinct Keyword in SQL
Before we begin, Let’s have a brief introduction. SQL stands for Structured Query language. It is very extensively used database query language. It is used in retrieving, managing, editing of data for Relational databases (These are databases in which data is stored in tables). Since data is stored in a structured form so the name of the language is SQL. Now let’s come to a distinct keyword. When we say or hear the English word distinct the first thing that comes to our mind is UNIQUE or separate from others. We use this keyword to eliminate duplicate records.
Syntax with Explanation
Let’s look at the distinct keyword syntax with an example:
Let’s have an employee table with three columns: empId, empname, and city as shown below:
Select DISTINCT(column_name) from table_name;
In our example above we can see that the city is the column which has repetitive values so we will put the city in place of column_name and employee in place of table_name. On running it will return the unique city names which are Mumbai, Delhi, Lucknow. If we remove distinct keyword it will retrieve four values instead of three.
Parameters used for Distinct Keyword in SQL
Let’s now look at the various parameters present in a distinct keyword. Below is the syntax for distinct keyword.
Select DISTINCT(expressions) from tables [where conditions];
- Expressions: In this, we provide the column names or calculations that we want.
- Tables: We provide the table names from which we want the records. One thing to note is that there should be at least one table name after from clause.
- Where Conditions: This is purely optional, We provide where condition when we want the data to first satisfy a particular condition for the records to get selected.
How to Use Distinct Keyword in SQL?
As we have already discussed the parameters. Let’s now learn where to use distinct keyword with the help of examples.
Let’s create a table CUSTOMER using DDL statements(data definition language) and then populate them using DML( Data manipulation language).
DDL (creating table):
CREATE TABLE customer ( customer_id int NOT NULL, name char(50) NOT NULL, city varchar2, state varchar2);
This will create a table having four columns customer_id, name, city, and state. Now we will use DML statements to enter data in the table.
Insert Statements to enter data:
INSERT INTO customer (customer_id, name, city, state) VALUES (25, ‘Suresh’,’Jamshedpur’,’Jharkhand’);
INSERT INTO customer (customer_id, name, city, state) VALUES (27, ‘Ramesh’, ’Jamshedpur’, ’Jharkhand’);
INSERT INTO customer (customer_id, name, city, state) VALUES (30, ‘Ravi’, ’Karnool’, ’Andhra Pradesh’);
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INSERT INTO customer (customer_id, name, city, state) VALUES (31, ‘Neha’, ’Delhi’, ’Delhi’);
INSERT INTO customer (customer_id, name, city, state) VALUES (32, ‘Sivan’, ’Kolkata’, ’West Bengal’);
INSERT INTO customer (customer_id, name, city, state) VALUES (35, ‘Niraj’, ’Mumbai’, ’Maharashtra’);
On executing the above statements we get the below customer table.
Now let’s execute some queries using distinct queries to learn how to use distinct keyword.
1. First, we will find unique values in a column.
select DISTINCT state from customer order by state;
On executing the query we will get 5 values as we have only five distinct states as Jharkhand is repeated twice. Since we have used ORDER BY so the result set will be sorted in ascending order. Below is the result set we should get on executing the query.
2. Secondly, we will unique values from multiple columns.
select DISTINCT city, state from customer order by city, state;
This above query will return each unique city and state combination. In the above case distinct applies to each field which is written after distinct keyword. So we will have five pairs of city and state as there Jamshedpur city which has been repeated twice. So we will have Jamshedpur along with Jharkhand once. The city will be ordered in ascending order. The result set on executing the query is shown below.
3. We will now see how the distinct keyword handles null values.
First of all, we will update a field in the state column as NULL and then use a distinct keyword to obtain the result set.
The update query to set NULL value in one of the fields of the customer table.
update customer set state=”” where customer_id = 35;
This will insert a NULL value in the last field of the state column. The table will be updated as below.
Now, let’s execute a distinct keyword using a select query.
select DISTINCT state from customer order by state;
On executing the above query we will set five values in the result as the distinct keyword considers NULL also as a unique value. Jharkhand being repeated twice will only have one value in the result set. Since we have used the ORDER BY clause so the result set will be sorted in ascending order. Below is the result set we should see on executing the above query.
To conclude this article we can say that distinct keyword is a very powerful and useful keyword which is used in SELECT statements based on different conditions depending on business requirements to retrieve UNIQUE/DISTINCT values from a column or columns.
This is a guide to the Distinct Keyword in SQL. Here we discuss the introduction, how to use distinct keyword in SQL?, and its Parameter along with some Examples. You may also look at the following articles to learn more –