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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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2.1 Lexical Structure

SQL input consists of a sequence of commands. A command is composed of a sequence of tokens, terminated by a semicolon (“;”). The end of the input stream also terminates a command. Which tokens are valid depends on the syntax of the particular command.

A token can be a key word, an identifier, a quoted identifier, a literal (or constant), or a special character symbol. Tokens are normally separated by whitespace (space, tab, newline), but need not be if there is no ambiguity (which is generally only the case if a special character is adjacent to some other token type).

For example, the following is (syntactically) valid SQL input:


This is a sequence of three commands, one per line (although this is not required; more than one command can be on a line, and commands can usefully be split across lines).

Additionally, comments can occur in SQL input. They are not tokens, they are effectively equivalent to whitespace.

The SQL syntax is not very consistent regarding what tokens identify commands and which are operands or parameters. The first few tokens are generally the command name, so in the above example we would usually speak of a “SELECT”, an “UPDATE”, and an “INSERT” command. But for instance the UPDATE command always requires a SET token to appear in a certain position, and this particular variation of INSERT also requires a VALUES in order to be complete. The precise syntax rules for each command are described in the SQL Command Reference.

ISBN 9781906966041The PostgreSQL 9.0 Reference Manual - Volume 1A - SQL Language ReferenceSee the print edition