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PostgreSQL Reference Manual - Volume 1 - SQL Language Reference
by The PostgreSQL Global Development Group
Paperback (6"x9"), 716 pages
ISBN 0954612027
RRP £32.00 ($49.95)

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8.5 UNION, CASE, and Related Constructs

SQL UNION constructs must match up possibly dissimilar types to become a single result set. The resolution algorithm is applied separately to each output column of a union query. The INTERSECT and EXCEPT constructs resolve dissimilar types in the same way as UNION. The CASE, ARRAY, VALUES, GREATEST and LEAST constructs use the identical algorithm to match up their component expressions and select a result data type.

Type Resolution for UNION, CASE, and Related Constructs:

  1. If all inputs are of type unknown, resolve as type text (the preferred type of the string category). Otherwise, ignore the unknown inputs while choosing the result type.
  2. If the non-unknown inputs are not all of the same type category, fail.
  3. Choose the first non-unknown input type which is a preferred type in that category or allows all the non-unknown inputs to be implicitly converted to it.
  4. Convert all inputs to the selected type.

Some examples follow.

Type Resolution with Underspecified Types in a Union:

SELECT text 'a' AS "text" UNION SELECT 'b';

 text
------
 a
 b
(2 rows)

Here, the unknown-type literal 'b' will be resolved as type text.

Type Resolution in a Simple Union:

SELECT 1.2 AS "numeric" UNION SELECT 1;

 numeric
---------
       1
     1.2
(2 rows)

The literal 1.2 is of type numeric, and the integer value 1 can be cast implicitly to numeric, so that type is used.

Type Resolution in a Transposed Union:

SELECT 1 AS "real" UNION SELECT CAST('2.2' AS REAL);

 real
------
    1
  2.2
(2 rows)

Here, since type real cannot be implicitly cast to integer, but integer can be implicitly cast to real, the union result type is resolved as real.

ISBN 0954612027PostgreSQL Reference Manual - Volume 1 - SQL Language ReferenceSee the print edition