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MySQL 8.0 Reference Manual  /  ...  /  Subqueries with EXISTS or NOT EXISTS Subqueries with EXISTS or NOT EXISTS

If a subquery returns any rows at all, EXISTS subquery is TRUE, and NOT EXISTS subquery is FALSE. For example:


Traditionally, an EXISTS subquery starts with SELECT *, but it could begin with SELECT 5 or SELECT column1 or anything at all. MySQL ignores the SELECT list in such a subquery, so it makes no difference.

For the preceding example, if t2 contains any rows, even rows with nothing but NULL values, the EXISTS condition is TRUE. This is actually an unlikely example because a [NOT] EXISTS subquery almost always contains correlations. Here are some more realistic examples:

  • What kind of store is present in one or more cities?

    SELECT DISTINCT store_type FROM stores
      WHERE EXISTS (SELECT * FROM cities_stores
                    WHERE cities_stores.store_type = stores.store_type);
  • What kind of store is present in no cities?

    SELECT DISTINCT store_type FROM stores
      WHERE NOT EXISTS (SELECT * FROM cities_stores
                        WHERE cities_stores.store_type = stores.store_type);
  • What kind of store is present in all cities?

    SELECT DISTINCT store_type FROM stores s1
          SELECT * FROM cities_stores
           WHERE =
           AND cities_stores.store_type = stores.store_type));

The last example is a double-nested NOT EXISTS query. That is, it has a NOT EXISTS clause within a NOT EXISTS clause. Formally, it answers the question does a city exist with a store that is not in Stores? But it is easier to say that a nested NOT EXISTS answers the question is x TRUE for all y?

User Comments
  Posted by ersin yilmaz on February 24, 2004
Last example (using double negation) can be interpreted as follows:

Store 'si' is in all cities if and only if for this store we can not find a city cj such that 'si' does not exist.

so the second select statement SELECT * FROM cities WHERE NOT EXISTS is applied to detemine that.

  Posted by Radu Borza on February 9, 2005
EXISTS function provides a simple way to find intersection between tables (INTERSECT operator from relational model).

If we have table1 and table2, both having id and value columns, the intersection could be calculated like this:

SELECT * FROM table1 WHERE EXISTS(SELECT * FROM table2 WHERE AND table1.value=table2.value)
  Posted by Aaron Chantrill on April 19, 2009
I'm coming from an MS SQL background (not my fault, honest) and would like to add that 'exists' does not operate as I expected it to in interactive mode.

I expect to be able to do something like:

if exists(select 1 from users where username=@username) then
do something;
end if;

but in interactive mode, this produces a syntax error. Oddly enough, though, this does work in a stored procedure.

  Posted by Edgar Sandi on May 26, 2009

You'll must build your own "IF EXISTS(..." with a set
of SQL statments.

It´s a challenge!

  Posted by mike tsai on August 12, 2009
NOT EXISTS will always return false if table is empty.

For example:
state_id int auto_increment not null,
state_code char(2) not null,
state_name varchar(100) not null,
PRIMARY KEY(state_id)

mysql> select 100 from states where not exists (select 1 from states where state_id=1);
Empty set (0.00 sec)

  Posted by Scott Rosenberg on October 22, 2009
I also come from an MSSQL background (also not my fault as I like to work), and found that this works in place of "IF EXISTS() THEN":

DECLARE v_user INTEGER DEFAULT (SELECT `user` FROM user_privacy WHERE `user` = p_user);

-- do whatever

I won't speak to the efficiency of that, but there it is. (I wouldn't store VARCHARs or TEXTs, etc. that way, for no reason).

It can also be written with the SELECT inline with the IF statement:

IF (SELECT `user` FROM user_privacy WHERE `user` = p_user) IS NOT NULL THEN
-- do whatever

.. but I'm in the habit of sticking things like that into vars for re-use in longer SPs.
  Posted by mojgan kavehei on March 10, 2014
I wonder if anyone tested the last example "What kind of store is present in all cities?"
it did not work for me, but instead i used this query in below ..

select count(stype), stype , city from cities_stores S group by S.stype having count(stype) = ( select count(distinct from cities_stores D )

any thought?

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