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Excerpts from this Manual

13.2.10.3 UNION Clause

SELECT ...
UNION [ALL | DISTINCT] SELECT ...
[UNION [ALL | DISTINCT] SELECT ...]

UNION combines the result from multiple SELECT statements into a single result set. Example:

mysql> SELECT 1, 2;
+---+---+
| 1 | 2 |
+---+---+
| 1 | 2 |
+---+---+
mysql> SELECT 'a', 'b';
+---+---+
| a | b |
+---+---+
| a | b |
+---+---+
mysql> SELECT 1, 2 UNION SELECT 'a', 'b';
+---+---+
| 1 | 2 |
+---+---+
| 1 | 2 |
| a | b |
+---+---+
Result Set Column Names and Data Types

The column names for a UNION result set are taken from the column names of the first SELECT statement.

Selected columns listed in corresponding positions of each SELECT statement should have the same data type. For example, the first column selected by the first statement should have the same type as the first column selected by the other statements. If the data types of corresponding SELECT columns do not match, the types and lengths of the columns in the UNION result take into account the values retrieved by all the SELECT statements. For example, consider the following, where the column length is not constrained to the length of the value from the first SELECT:

mysql> SELECT REPEAT('a',1) UNION SELECT REPEAT('b',20);
+----------------------+
| REPEAT('a',1)        |
+----------------------+
| a                    |
| bbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbb |
+----------------------+
TABLE in Unions

Beginning with MySQL 8.0.19, you can also use a TABLE statement or VALUES statement in a UNION wherever you can employ the equivalent SELECT statement. Assume that tables t1 and t2 are created and populated as shown here:

CREATE TABLE t1 (x INT, y INT);
INSERT INTO t1 VALUES ROW(4,-2),ROW(5,9);

CREATE TABLE t2 (a INT, b INT);
INSERT INTO t2 VALUES ROW(1,2),ROW(3,4);

The preceding being the case, and disregarding the column names in the output of the queries beginning with VALUES, all of the following UNION queries yield the same result:

SELECT * FROM t1 UNION SELECT * FROM t2;
TABLE t1 UNION SELECT * FROM t2;
VALUES ROW(4,-2), ROW(5,9) UNION SELECT * FROM t2;
SELECT * FROM t1 UNION TABLE t2;
TABLE t1 UNION TABLE t2;
VALUES ROW(4,-2), ROW(5,9) UNION TABLE t2;
SELECT * FROM t1 UNION VALUES ROW(4,-2),ROW(5,9);
TABLE t1 UNION VALUES ROW(4,-2),ROW(5,9);
VALUES ROW(4,-2), ROW(5,9) UNION VALUES ROW(4,-2),ROW(5,9);

To force the column names to be the same, wrap the VALUES on the left hand side in a SELECT and use aliases, like this:

SELECT * FROM (VALUES ROW(4,-2), ROW(5,9)) AS t(x,y)
  UNION TABLE t2;
SELECT * FROM (VALUES ROW(4,-2), ROW(5,9)) AS t(x,y)
  UNION VALUES ROW(4,-2),ROW(5,9);
UNION DISTINCT and UNION ALL

By default, duplicate rows are removed from UNION results. The optional DISTINCT keyword has the same effect but makes it explicit. With the optional ALL keyword, duplicate-row removal does not occur and the result includes all matching rows from all the SELECT statements.

You can mix UNION ALL and UNION DISTINCT in the same query. Mixed UNION types are treated such that a DISTINCT union overrides any ALL union to its left. A DISTINCT union can be produced explicitly by using UNION DISTINCT or implicitly by using UNION with no following DISTINCT or ALL keyword.

In MySQL 8.0.19 and later, UNION ALL and UNION DISTINCT work the same way when one or more TABLE statements are used in the union.

ORDER BY and LIMIT in Unions

To apply an ORDER BY or LIMIT clause to an individual SELECT, parenthesize the SELECT and place the clause inside the parentheses:

(SELECT a FROM t1 WHERE a=10 AND B=1 ORDER BY a LIMIT 10)
UNION
(SELECT a FROM t2 WHERE a=11 AND B=2 ORDER BY a LIMIT 10);

Use of ORDER BY for individual SELECT statements implies nothing about the order in which the rows appear in the final result because UNION by default produces an unordered set of rows. Therefore, ORDER BY in this context typically is used in conjunction with LIMIT, to determine the subset of the selected rows to retrieve for the SELECT, even though it does not necessarily affect the order of those rows in the final UNION result. If ORDER BY appears without LIMIT in a SELECT, it is optimized away because it will have no effect, anyway.

To use an ORDER BY or LIMIT clause to sort or limit the entire UNION result, parenthesize the individual SELECT statements and place the ORDER BY or LIMIT after the last one:

(SELECT a FROM t1 WHERE a=10 AND B=1)
UNION
(SELECT a FROM t2 WHERE a=11 AND B=2)
ORDER BY a LIMIT 10;

A statement without parentheses is equivalent to one parenthesized as just shown.

Beginning with MySQL 8.0.19, you can use ORDER BY and LIMIT with TABLE in unions in the same way as just shown, bearing in mind that TABLE does not support a WHERE clause.

This kind of ORDER BY cannot use column references that include a table name (that is, names in tbl_name.col_name format). Instead, provide a column alias in the first SELECT statement and refer to the alias in the ORDER BY. (Alternatively, refer to the column in the ORDER BY using its column position. However, use of column positions is deprecated.)

Also, if a column to be sorted is aliased, the ORDER BY clause must refer to the alias, not the column name. The first of the following statements is permitted, but the second fails with an Unknown column 'a' in 'order clause' error:

(SELECT a AS b FROM t) UNION (SELECT ...) ORDER BY b;
(SELECT a AS b FROM t) UNION (SELECT ...) ORDER BY a;

To cause rows in a UNION result to consist of the sets of rows retrieved by each SELECT one after the other, select an additional column in each SELECT to use as a sort column and add an ORDER BY that sorts on that column following the last SELECT:

(SELECT 1 AS sort_col, col1a, col1b, ... FROM t1)
UNION
(SELECT 2, col2a, col2b, ... FROM t2) ORDER BY sort_col;

To additionally maintain sort order within individual SELECT results, add a secondary column to the ORDER BY clause:

(SELECT 1 AS sort_col, col1a, col1b, ... FROM t1)
UNION
(SELECT 2, col2a, col2b, ... FROM t2) ORDER BY sort_col, col1a;

Use of an additional column also enables you to determine which SELECT each row comes from. Extra columns can provide other identifying information as well, such as a string that indicates a table name.

UNION Restrictions

In a UNION, the SELECT statements are normal select statements, but with the following restrictions:

  • HIGH_PRIORITY in the first SELECT has no effect. HIGH_PRIORITY in any subsequent SELECT produces a syntax error.

  • Only the last SELECT statement can use an INTO clause. However, the entire UNION result is written to the INTO output destination.

As of MySQL 8.0.20, these two UNION variants containing INTO are deprecated and support for them will be removed in a future MySQL version:

  • In the trailing query block of a query expression, use of INTO before FROM produces a warning. Example:

    ... UNION SELECT * INTO OUTFILE 'file_name' FROM table_name;
  • In a parenthesized trailing block of a query expression, use of INTO (regardless of its position relative to FROM) produces a warning. Example:

    ... UNION (SELECT * INTO OUTFILE 'file_name' FROM table_name);

    Those variants are deprecated because they are confusing, as if they collect information from the named table rather than the entire query expression (the UNION).

UNION queries with an aggregate function in an ORDER BY clause are rejected with an ER_AGGREGATE_ORDER_FOR_UNION error. Example:

SELECT 1 AS foo UNION SELECT 2 ORDER BY MAX(1);
UNION Handing in MySQL 8.0 Compared to MySQL 5.7

In MySQL 8.0, the parser rules for SELECT and UNION were refactored to be more consistent (the same SELECT syntax applies uniformly in each such context) and reduce duplication. Compared to MySQL 5.7, several user-visible effects resulted from this work, which may require rewriting of certain statements:

  • NATURAL JOIN permits an optional INNER keyword (NATURAL INNER JOIN), in compliance with standard SQL.

  • Right-deep joins without parentheses are permitted (for example, ... JOIN ... JOIN ... ON ... ON), in compliance with standard SQL.

  • STRAIGHT_JOIN now permits a USING clause, similar to other inner joins.

  • The parser accepts parentheses around query expressions. For example, (SELECT ... UNION SELECT ...) is permitted. See also Section 13.2.10.4, “Parenthesized Query Expressions”.

  • The parser better conforms to the documented permitted placement of the SQL_CACHE and SQL_NO_CACHE query modifiers.

  • Left-hand nesting of unions, previously permitted only in subqueries, is now permitted in top-level statements. For example, this statement is now accepted as valid:

    (SELECT 1 UNION SELECT 1) UNION SELECT 1;
  • Locking clauses (FOR UPDATE, LOCK IN SHARE MODE) are allowed only in non-UNION queries. This means that parentheses must be used for SELECT statements containing locking clauses. This statement is no longer accepted as valid:

    SELECT 1 FOR UPDATE UNION SELECT 1 FOR UPDATE;

    Instead, write the statement like this:

    (SELECT 1 FOR UPDATE) UNION (SELECT 1 FOR UPDATE);