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The PostgreSQL 9.0 Reference Manual - Volume 1A - SQL Language Reference
by The PostgreSQL Global Development Group
Paperback (6"x9"), 454 pages
ISBN 9781906966041
RRP £14.95 ($19.95)

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7.16.1 CASE

The SQL CASE expression is a generic conditional expression, similar to if/else statements in other programming languages:

CASE WHEN condition THEN result
     [WHEN ...]
     [ELSE result]
END

CASE clauses can be used wherever an expression is valid. Each condition is an expression that returns a boolean result. If the condition's result is true, the value of the CASE expression is the result that follows the condition, and the remainder of the CASE expression is not processed. If the condition's result is not true, any subsequent WHEN clauses are examined in the same manner. If no WHEN condition yields true, the value of the CASE expression is the result of the ELSE clause. If the ELSE clause is omitted and no condition is true, the result is null.

An example:

SELECT * FROM test;

 a
---
 1
 2
 3

SELECT a,
       CASE WHEN a=1 THEN 'one'
            WHEN a=2 THEN 'two'
            ELSE 'other'
       END
    FROM test;

 a | case
---+-------
 1 | one
 2 | two
 3 | other

The data types of all the result expressions must be convertible to a single output type. See section 8.5 UNION, CASE, and Related Constructs for more details.

There is a “simple” form of CASE expression that is a variant of the general form above:

CASE expression
    WHEN value THEN result
    [WHEN ...]
    [ELSE result]
END

The first expression is computed, then compared to each of the value expressions in the WHEN clauses until one is found that is equal to it. If no match is found, the result of the ELSE clause (or a null value) is returned. This is similar to the switch statement in C.

The example above can be written using the simple CASE syntax:

SELECT a,
       CASE a WHEN 1 THEN 'one'
              WHEN 2 THEN 'two'
              ELSE 'other'
       END
    FROM test;

 a | case
---+-------
 1 | one
 2 | two
 3 | other

A CASE expression does not evaluate any subexpressions that are not needed to determine the result. For example, this is a possible way of avoiding a division-by-zero failure:

SELECT ... WHERE CASE WHEN x <> 0 THEN y/x > 1.5 ELSE false END;
ISBN 9781906966041The PostgreSQL 9.0 Reference Manual - Volume 1A - SQL Language ReferenceSee the print edition