Nested subqueries in SQL server

What are Nested subqueries in SQL server? What is a Subquery? What is Set Membership? What is Set Comparison? What are the Test for Empty Relations? What are the Test for the Absence of Duplicate Tuples? What are the Subqueries in the From Clause? What is The with Clause? How we define Scalar Subqueries?
Nested subqueries in SQL server
Learn about Nested Subqueries in SQL server
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SQL provides a mechanism for nesting subqueries. A subquery is a select-from-where expression that is nested in another query.

A common use of subqueries is to perform tests for set membership, make set comparisons, and determine set cardinality, by nesting subqueries in the where clause.

We study such uses of nested subqueries in the where clause later in "Set Membership" section. 

Set Membership

SQL allows testing tuples for membership in a relation. The in connective tests for set membership, where the set is a group of values produced by a select clause. The not in connective tests for the absence of set membership.

As an example, consider the query "Find all the courses taught in the both the Fall 2009 and Spring 2010 semesters." 

In aggregate operators post, we wrote such a query by intersecting two sets: the set of courses taught in Fall 2009and the set of courses taught in Spring 2010.

We can take the alternative approach of finding all courses that were taught in Fall 2009 and that are also members of the set of courses taught in Spring 2010.

Clearly, this formula generates the same results as the previous one did, but it leads us to write our query using the in connective of SQL.

We begin by finding all courses taught in Spring 2010, and we write the subquery

(select course_id
from section
where semester = 'Spring' and year = 2010)

We then need to find those courses that were taught in the Fall 2009 which appear in the set of courses obtained in the subquery. We do so by nesting the subquery in the where clause of an outer query. The resulting query is

select distinct course_id
from section
where semester = 'Fall' and year = 2009 and
course_id in (select course_id
from section
where semester = 'Spring' and year = 2010);

This example shows that it is possible to write same query several ways in SQL. This flexibility is beneficial, since it allows a user to think about the query in the way that seems most natural.

We shall see that there is a substantial amount of redundancy in SQL.

We use the not in construct in a way similar to the in construct. For example, to find all the courses taught in the Fall 20009 semester but not in the Spring 2010 semester, we can write:

select distinct course_id
from section
where semester = 'Fall' and year = 2009 and
course_id not in (select course_id
from section
where semester = 'Spring' and year = 2010);

The in and not in operators can also be used on enumerated sets. The following query selects the names of instructors whose names are neither "Mozart" nor "Einstein".

select distinct
from instructor
where name not in ('Mozart' , 'Einstein');

Set Comparison

As an example of the ability of a nested subquery to compare sets, consider the query "Find the names of all instructors whose salary is greater than at least one in the Biology department."

select distinct
from instructor as T, instructor as S
where T.salary > S.salary and S.dept_name = 'Biology';

SQL does, however, offer an alternative style of writing the preceding query. The phrase "greater than at least one" is represented in SQL by > some

This construct allows us to rewrite the query in a form that resembles closely our formulation of the query in English.

select name
from instructor
where salary > some (select salary
from instructor
where dept_name = 'Biology');

The subquery:

(select salary
from instructor
where dept_name = 'Biology')

generates the set of all salary values of all instructors in the Biology department. The > some comparison in the where clause of the outer select is true if the salary value of the tuple is greater than at least one member of the set of all salary values for instructors in Biology.

Test for Empty Relations

SQL includes a feature for testing whether a subquery has any tuples in its result. The exists construct returns the value true if the argument subquery is nonempty. 

Using the exists construct, we can write the query "Find all courses taught in both the Fall 2009 semester and in the Spring 2010 semester" in still another way:

select course_id
from section as S
where semester = 'Fall' and year = 2009 and
exists (select *
from section as T 
where semester = 'Spring' and year = 2010) and
S.course_id = T.course_id);

The above query also illustrates a feature of SQL where a correlation name from an outer query (S in the above query), can be used in a subquery in the where clause.

A subquery that uses a correlation name from an outer query is called a correlated subquery.

In queries that contain subqueries, a scoping rule applies for correlation names. In a subquery, according to the rule, it is legal to use only correlation names defined in the subquery itself or in any query that contains the subquery.

If a correlation name is defined both locally in a subquery and globally in a containing query, the local definition applies. This rule is analogous to the usual scoping rules used for variables in programming languages.

We can test for the nonexistence of tuples in a subquery by using the not exists construct. We can use the not exists construct to simulate the set containment  (that is, superset) operation:

We can write "relation A contains relation B" as "not exists (B except A)." To illustrate the not exists operator, consider the query "Find all students who have taken all courses offered in the Biology department."

Using the except construct, we can write the query as follows:

select distinct S.ID,
from student as S
where not exists ((select course_id
from course
where dept_name = 'Biology')
(select T.course_id
from takes as T
where S.ID = T.ID ));

Here the subquery:

(select course_id
from course
where dept_name = 'Biology')

finds the set of all courses offered in the Biology department. The subquery:

(select T.course_id
from takes as T
where S.ID = T.ID)

finds all the courses that student S.ID has taken.

Test for the Absence of Duplicate Tuples

SQL includes a boolean function for testing whether a subquery has duplicate tuples in the result. The unique construct returns the value true if the argument subquery contains no duplicate tuples.

Using the unique construct, we can write the query "Find all courses that were offered at most once in 2009" as follows:

select T.course_id
from course as T
where unique (select R.course_id
from section as R
where T.course_id = R.course_id and
R.year = 2009);

Note that if a course is not offered in 2009, the subquery would return an empty result, and the unique predicate would evaluate to true on the empty set.

An equivalent version of the above query not using the unique construct is:

select T.course_id
from course as T
where 1 <= (select count (R.course_id)
from section as R
where T.course_id = R.course_id and
R.year = 2009);

We can test for the existence of duplicate tuples in a subquery by using the not unique construct. To explain this construct, consider the query "Find all courses that were offered at least twice in 2009" as follows:

select T.course_id
from course as T
where not unique (select R.course_id
from section as R
where T.course_id = R.course_id and
R.year = 2009);

Since the test t1 = t2 fails if any of the fields of t1 or t2 are null, it is possible for unique to be true even if there are multiple copies of a tuple, as long as at least on of the attributes of the tuple is null.

Subqueries in the From Clause

SQL allows a subquery expression to be used in the from clause. The key concept applied here is that any select-from-where expression returns a relation as a result, therefore can be inserted into another select-from-where anywhere that a relation can appear.

Consider the query "Find the average instructors' salaries of those departments where the average salary is greater than $42,000." 

We can now rewrite this query , without using the having clause, by using a subquery in the from clause, as follows:

select dept_name, avg_salary
from (select dept_name, avg (salary) as avg_salary
from instructor
group by dept_name)
where avg_salary > 42000;

The subquery generates a relation consisting of the names of all departments and their corresponding average instructors' salaries. 

Note that we do not need to use the having clause, since the subquery in the from clause computes the average salary, and the predicate that was in the having clause earlier is now in the where clause of the outer query.

We can give the subquery result relation a name, and rename the attributes, using the as clause, as illustrated below.

select dept_name, avg_salary
from (select dept_name, avg (salary)
from instructor
group by dept_name)
as dept_avg (dept_name, avg_salary)
where avg_salary > 42000;

The subquery result relation is named dept_avg, with the attributes dept_name and avg_salary. Nested subqueries in the from clause are supported by most but not all SQL implementations.

We note that nested subqueries in the from clause cannot use correlation variables from other relations in the from clause.

For example, if we wish to print the names of each instructor, along with their salary and the average salary in their department, we could write the query as follows:

select name, salary, avg_salary
from instructor I1, lateral (select avg(salary) as avg_salary
from instructor I2
where I2.dept_name= I1.dept_name);

Without the lateral clause, the subquery cannot access the correlation variable I1 from the outer query. 

The with Clause

The with clause provides the way of defining a temporary relation whose definition is available only to the query in which the with clause occurs.

Consider the following query, which finds those departments with the maximum budget.

with max_budget (value) as
(select max(budget)
from department)
select budget
from department, max_budget
where department.budget = max_budget.value;

The with clause defines the temporary relation max_budget, which is used in the immediately following query. The with clause, introduced in SQL:1999, is supported by many, but not all, database systems.

We could have written the above query by using a nested subquery in either the from clause or the where clause. However, using nested subqueries would have made the query harder to read and understand.

The with clause makes the query logic logic clearer; it also allows a view definition to be used in multiple places within a query.

For example, suppose we want to find all departments where the total salary is greater than the average of the total salary at all departments. We can write the query using the with clause as follows.

with dept_total (dept_name, valueas
(select dept_name, sum(salary)
from instructor
group by dept_name),
dept_total_avg(value) as
(select avg (value)
from dept_total)
select dept_name
from dept_totaldept_total_avg
where dept_total.value >= dept_total_avg.value;

Scalar Subqueries

SQL allows subqueries to occur wherever an expression returning a value is permitted, provided the subquery returns only one tuple containing a single attribute; such subqueries are called scalar subqueries.

For example, a subquery can be used in the select clause as illustrated in the following example that lists all departments along with the number of instructors in each department:

select dept_name,
(select count(*)
from instructor
where department.dept_name = instructor.dept_name)
as num_instructors
from department;

The subquery in the above example is guranteed to return only a single value since it has a count(*) aggregate without a group by.

Scalar subqueries can occur in select, where, and having clauses. Scalar subqueries may also be defined without aggregates.

It is not always possible to figure out at compile time if a subquery can return more than one tuple in its result; if the result has more than one tuple when the subquery is executed, a run-time error occurs.

Note that technically the type of a scalar subquery result is still a relation, even if it contains a single tuple. 

However, when a scalar subquery is used in an expression where a value is expected, SQL implicity extracts the value from the single attribute of the single tuple in the relation, and returns that value.

I hope you got your queries solved and if you still got any, feel free to comment it down below👇💬. Share this post with your friends to help them as well😉.

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