A common table expression (CTE) is a named temporary result set that exists within the scope of a single statement and that can be referred to later within that statement, possibly multiple times. The following discussion describes how to write statements that use CTEs.
For information about CTE optimization, see Section 184.108.40.206, “Optimizing Derived Tables, View References, and Common Table Expressions with Merging or Materialization”.
These articles contain additional information about using CTEs in MySQL, including many examples:
To specify common table expressions, use a
WITH clause that has one or more
comma-separated subclauses. Each subclause provides a subquery
that produces a result set, and associates a name with the
subquery. The following example defines CTEs named
cte2 in the
WITH clause, and refers to them
in the top-level
WITH cte1 AS (SELECT a, b FROM table1), cte2 AS (SELECT c, d FROM table2) SELECT b, d FROM cte1 JOIN cte2 WHERE cte1.a = cte2.c;
In the statement containing the
WITH clause, each CTE name can be
referenced to access the corresponding CTE result set.
A CTE name can be referenced in other CTEs, enabling CTEs to be defined based on other CTEs.
A CTE can refer to itself to define a recursive CTE. Common applications of recursive CTEs include series generation and traversal of hierarchical or tree-structured data.
Common table expressions are an optional part of the syntax for
DML statements. They are defined using a
with_clause: WITH [RECURSIVE] cte_name [(col_name [, col_name] ...)] AS (subquery) [, cte_name [(col_name [, col_name] ...)] AS (subquery)] ...
cte_name names a single common table
expression and can be used as a table reference in the statement
subquery part of
( is called the
“subquery of the CTE” and is what produces the CTE
result set. The parentheses following
A common table expression is recursive if its subquery refers to
its own name. The
RECURSIVE keyword must be
included if any CTE in the
clause is recursive. For more information, see
Recursive Common Table Expressions.
Determination of column names for a given CTE occurs as follows:
If a parenthesized list of names follows the CTE name, those names are the column names:
WITH cte (col1, col2) AS ( SELECT 1, 2 UNION ALL SELECT 3, 4 ) SELECT col1, col2 FROM cte;
The number of names in the list must be the same as the number of columns in the result set.
Otherwise, the column names come from the select list of the first
WITH cte AS ( SELECT 1 AS col1, 2 AS col2 UNION ALL SELECT 3, 4 ) SELECT col1, col2 FROM cte;
WITH clause is permitted in
WITH ... SELECT ... WITH ... UPDATE ... WITH ... DELETE ...
At the beginning of subqueries (including derived table subqueries):
SELECT ... WHERE id IN (WITH ... SELECT ...) ... SELECT * FROM (WITH ... SELECT ...) AS dt ...
INSERT ... WITH ... SELECT ... REPLACE ... WITH ... SELECT ... CREATE TABLE ... WITH ... SELECT ... CREATE VIEW ... WITH ... SELECT ... DECLARE CURSOR ... WITH ... SELECT ... EXPLAIN ... WITH ... SELECT ...
WITH cte1 AS (...) WITH cte2 AS (...) SELECT ...
To make the statement legal, use a single
WITH clause that separates the
subclauses by a comma:
WITH cte1 AS (...), cte2 AS (...) SELECT ...
However, a statement can contain multiple
WITH clauses if they occur at
WITH cte1 AS (SELECT 1) SELECT * FROM (WITH cte2 AS (SELECT 2) SELECT * FROM cte2 JOIN cte1) AS dt;
WITH clause can define one or
more common table expressions, but each CTE name must be unique
to the clause. This is illegal:
WITH cte1 AS (...), cte1 AS (...) SELECT ...
To make the statement legal, define the CTEs with unique names:
WITH cte1 AS (...), cte2 AS (...) SELECT ...
A CTE can refer to itself or to other CTEs:
A self-referencing CTE is recursive.
A CTE can refer to CTEs defined earlier in the same
WITHclause, but not those defined later.
This constraint rules out mutually-recursive CTEs, where
cte1. One of those references must be to a CTE defined later, which is not permitted.
A CTE in a given query block can refer to CTEs defined in query blocks at a more outer level, but not CTEs defined in query blocks at a more inner level.
For resolving references to objects with the same names, derived
tables hide CTEs; and CTEs hide base tables,
TEMPORARY tables, and views. Name resolution
occurs by searching for objects in the same query block, then
proceeding to outer blocks in turn while no object with the name
Like derived tables, a CTE cannot contain outer references prior to MySQL 8.0.14. This is a MySQL restriction that is lifted in MySQL 8.0.14, not a restriction of the SQL standard. For additional syntax considerations specific to recursive CTEs, see Recursive Common Table Expressions.
A recursive common table expression is one having a subquery that refers to its own name. For example:
WITH RECURSIVE cte (n) AS ( SELECT 1 UNION ALL SELECT n + 1 FROM cte WHERE n < 5 ) SELECT * FROM cte;
When executed, the statement produces this result, a single column containing a simple linear sequence:
+------+ | n | +------+ | 1 | | 2 | | 3 | | 4 | | 5 | +------+
A recursive CTE has this structure:
WITHclause must begin with
WITH RECURSIVEif any CTE in the
WITHclause refers to itself. (If no CTE refers to itself,
RECURSIVEis permitted but not required.)
If you forget
RECURSIVEfor a recursive CTE, this error is a likely result:
ERROR 1146 (42S02): Table 'cte_name' doesn't exist
SELECT ... -- return initial row set UNION ALL SELECT ... -- return additional row sets
SELECTproduces the initial row or rows for the CTE and does not refer to the CTE name. The second
SELECTproduces additional rows and recurses by referring to the CTE name in its
FROMclause. Recursion ends when this part produces no new rows. Thus, a recursive CTE consists of a nonrecursive
SELECTpart followed by a recursive
The types of the CTE result columns are inferred from the column types of the nonrecursive
SELECTpart only, and the columns are all nullable. For type determination, the recursive
SELECTpart is ignored.
If the nonrecursive and recursive parts are separated by
UNION DISTINCT, duplicate rows are eliminated. This is useful for queries that perform transitive closures, to avoid infinite loops.
Each iteration of the recursive part operates only on the rows produced by the previous iteration. If the recursive part has multiple query blocks, iterations of each query block are scheduled in unspecified order, and each query block operates on rows that have been produced either by its previous iteration or by other query blocks since that previous iteration's end.
The recursive CTE subquery shown earlier has this nonrecursive part that retrieves a single row to produce the initial row set:
The CTE subquery also has this recursive part:
SELECT n + 1 FROM cte WHERE n < 5
At each iteration, that
produces a row with a new value one greater than the value of
n from the previous row set. The first
iteration operates on the initial row set (
1+1=2; the second iteration
operates on the first iteration's row set (
2+1=3; and so forth. This
continues until recursion ends, which occurs when
n is no longer less than 5.
If the recursive part of a CTE produces wider values for a column than the nonrecursive part, it may be necessary to widen the column in the nonrecursive part to avoid data truncation. Consider this statement:
WITH RECURSIVE cte AS ( SELECT 1 AS n, 'abc' AS str UNION ALL SELECT n + 1, CONCAT(str, str) FROM cte WHERE n < 3 ) SELECT * FROM cte;
In nonstrict SQL mode, the statement produces this output:
+------+------+ | n | str | +------+------+ | 1 | abc | | 2 | abc | | 3 | abc | +------+------+
In strict SQL mode, the statement produces an error:
ERROR 1406 (22001): Data too long for column 'str' at row 1
WITH RECURSIVE cte AS ( SELECT 1 AS n, CAST('abc' AS CHAR(20)) AS str UNION ALL SELECT n + 1, CONCAT(str, str) FROM cte WHERE n < 3 ) SELECT * FROM cte;
Now the statement produces this result, without truncation:
+------+--------------+ | n | str | +------+--------------+ | 1 | abc | | 2 | abcabc | | 3 | abcabcabcabc | +------+--------------+
Columns are accessed by name, not position, which means that columns in the recursive part can access columns in the nonrecursive part that have a different position, as this CTE illustrates:
WITH RECURSIVE cte AS ( SELECT 1 AS n, 1 AS p, -1 AS q UNION ALL SELECT n + 1, q * 2, p * 2 FROM cte WHERE n < 5 ) SELECT * FROM cte;
p in one row is derived from
q in the previous row, and vice versa, the
positive and negative values swap positions in each successive
row of the output:
+------+------+------+ | n | p | q | +------+------+------+ | 1 | 1 | -1 | | 2 | -2 | 2 | | 3 | 4 | -4 | | 4 | -8 | 8 | | 5 | 16 | -16 | +------+------+------+
Some syntax constraints apply within recursive CTE subqueries:
SELECTpart must not contain these constructs:
Aggregate functions such as
Prior to MySQL 8.0.19, the recursive
SELECTpart of a recursive CTE also could not use a
LIMITclause. This restriction is lifted in MySQL 8.0.19, and
LIMITis now supported in such cases, along with an optional
OFFSETclause. The effect on the result set is the same as when using
LIMITin the outermost
SELECT, but is also more efficient, since using it with the recursive
SELECTstops the generation of rows as soon as the requested number of them has been produced.
SELECTpart must reference the CTE only once and only in its
FROMclause, not in any subquery. It can reference tables other than the CTE and join them with the CTE. If used in a join like this, the CTE must not be on the right side of a
These constraints come from the SQL standard, other than the
MySQL-specific exclusions of
LIMIT (MySQL 8.0.18 and earlier), and
Cost estimates displayed by
EXPLAIN represent cost per
iteration, which might differ considerably from total cost. The
optimizer cannot predict the number of iterations because it
cannot predict when the
WHERE clause will
CTE actual cost may also be affected by result set size. A CTE that produces many rows may require an internal temporary table large enough to be converted from in-memory to on-disk format and may suffer a performance penalty. If so, increasing the permitted in-memory temporary table size may improve performance; see Section 8.4.4, “Internal Temporary Table Use in MySQL”.
It is important for recursive CTEs that the recursive
SELECT part include a condition
to terminate recursion. As a development technique to guard
against a runaway recursive CTE, you can force termination by
placing a limit on execution time:
cte_max_recursion_depthsystem variable enforces a limit on the number of recursion levels for CTEs. The server terminates execution of any CTE that recurses more levels than the value of this variable.
Suppose that a recursive CTE is mistakenly written with no recursion execution termination condition:
WITH RECURSIVE cte (n) AS ( SELECT 1 UNION ALL SELECT n + 1 FROM cte ) SELECT * FROM cte;
cte_max_recursion_depth has a
value of 1000, causing the CTE to terminate when it recurses
past 1000 levels. Applications can change the session value to
adjust for their requirements:
SET SESSION cte_max_recursion_depth = 10; -- permit only shallow recursion SET SESSION cte_max_recursion_depth = 1000000; -- permit deeper recursion
You can also set the global
to affect all sessions that begin subsequently.
For queries that execute and thus recurse slowly or in contexts
for which there is reason to set the
very high, another way to guard against deep recursion is to set
a per-session timeout. To do so, execute a statement like this
prior to executing the CTE statement:
SET max_execution_time = 1000; -- impose one second timeout
Alternatively, include an optimizer hint within the CTE statement itself:
WITH RECURSIVE cte (n) AS ( SELECT 1 UNION ALL SELECT n + 1 FROM cte ) SELECT /*+ SET_VAR(cte_max_recursion_depth = 1M) */ * FROM cte; WITH RECURSIVE cte (n) AS ( SELECT 1 UNION ALL SELECT n + 1 FROM cte ) SELECT /*+ MAX_EXECUTION_TIME(1000) */ * FROM cte;
Beginning with MySQL 8.0.19, you can also use
LIMIT within the recursive query to impose a
maximum nuber of rows to be returned to the outermost
SELECT, for example:
WITH RECURSIVE cte (n) AS ( SELECT 1 UNION ALL SELECT n + 1 FROM cte LIMIT 10000 ) SELECT * FROM cte;
You can do this in addition to or instead of setting a time limit. Thus, the following CTE terminates after returning ten thousand rows or running for one thousand seconds, whichever occurs first:
WITH RECURSIVE cte (n) AS ( SELECT 1 UNION ALL SELECT n + 1 FROM cte LIMIT 10000 ) SELECT /*+ MAX_EXECUTION_TIME(1000) */ * FROM cte;
If a recursive query without an execution time limit enters an
infinite loop, you can terminate it from another session using
Within the session itself, the client program used to run the
query might provide a way to kill the query. For example, in
mysql, typing Control+C
interrupts the current statement.
As mentioned previously, recursive common table expressions (CTEs) are frequently used for series generation and traversing hierarchical or tree-structured data. This section shows some simple examples of these techniques.
A Fibonacci series begins with the two numbers 0 and 1 (or 1 and
1) and each number after that is the sum of the previous two
numbers. A recursive common table expression can generate a
Fibonacci series if each row produced by the recursive
SELECT has access to the two
previous numbers from the series. The following CTE generates a
10-number series using 0 and 1 as the first two numbers:
WITH RECURSIVE fibonacci (n, fib_n, next_fib_n) AS ( SELECT 1, 0, 1 UNION ALL SELECT n + 1, next_fib_n, fib_n + next_fib_n FROM fibonacci WHERE n < 10 ) SELECT * FROM fibonacci;
The CTE produces this result:
+------+-------+------------+ | n | fib_n | next_fib_n | +------+-------+------------+ | 1 | 0 | 1 | | 2 | 1 | 1 | | 3 | 1 | 2 | | 4 | 2 | 3 | | 5 | 3 | 5 | | 6 | 5 | 8 | | 7 | 8 | 13 | | 8 | 13 | 21 | | 9 | 21 | 34 | | 10 | 34 | 55 | +------+-------+------------+
How the CTE works:
nis a display column to indicate that the row contains the
n-th Fibonacci number. For example, the 8th Fibonacci number is 13.
fib_ncolumn displays Fibonacci number
next_fib_ncolumn displays the next Fibonacci number after number
n. This column provides the next series value to the next row, so that row can produce the sum of the two previous series values in its
Recursion ends when
nreaches 10. This is an arbitrary choice, to limit the output to a small set of rows.
The preceding output shows the entire CTE result. To select just
part of it, add an appropriate
to the top-level
example, to select the 8th Fibonacci number, do this:
mysql> WITH RECURSIVE fibonacci ... ... SELECT fib_n FROM fibonacci WHERE n = 8; +-------+ | fib_n | +-------+ | 13 | +-------+
A common table expression can generate a series of successive dates, which is useful for generating summaries that include a row for all dates in the series, including dates not represented in the summarized data.
Suppose that a table of sales numbers contains these rows:
mysql> SELECT * FROM sales ORDER BY date, price; +------------+--------+ | date | price | +------------+--------+ | 2017-01-03 | 100.00 | | 2017-01-03 | 200.00 | | 2017-01-06 | 50.00 | | 2017-01-08 | 10.00 | | 2017-01-08 | 20.00 | | 2017-01-08 | 150.00 | | 2017-01-10 | 5.00 | +------------+--------+
This query summarizes the sales per day:
mysql> SELECT date, SUM(price) AS sum_price FROM sales GROUP BY date ORDER BY date; +------------+-----------+ | date | sum_price | +------------+-----------+ | 2017-01-03 | 300.00 | | 2017-01-06 | 50.00 | | 2017-01-08 | 180.00 | | 2017-01-10 | 5.00 | +------------+-----------+
However, that result contains “holes” for dates not
represented in the range of dates spanned by the table. A result
that represents all dates in the range can be produced using a
recursive CTE to generate that set of dates, joined with a
LEFT JOIN to the sales data.
Here is the CTE to generate the date range series:
WITH RECURSIVE dates (date) AS ( SELECT MIN(date) FROM sales UNION ALL SELECT date + INTERVAL 1 DAY FROM dates WHERE date + INTERVAL 1 DAY <= (SELECT MAX(date) FROM sales) ) SELECT * FROM dates;
The CTE produces this result:
+------------+ | date | +------------+ | 2017-01-03 | | 2017-01-04 | | 2017-01-05 | | 2017-01-06 | | 2017-01-07 | | 2017-01-08 | | 2017-01-09 | | 2017-01-10 | +------------+
How the CTE works:
Joining the CTE with a
LEFT JOIN against the
sales table produces the sales summary with a
row for each date in the range:
WITH RECURSIVE dates (date) AS ( SELECT MIN(date) FROM sales UNION ALL SELECT date + INTERVAL 1 DAY FROM dates WHERE date + INTERVAL 1 DAY <= (SELECT MAX(date) FROM sales) ) SELECT dates.date, COALESCE(SUM(price), 0) AS sum_price FROM dates LEFT JOIN sales ON dates.date = sales.date GROUP BY dates.date ORDER BY dates.date;
The output looks like this:
+------------+-----------+ | date | sum_price | +------------+-----------+ | 2017-01-03 | 300.00 | | 2017-01-04 | 0.00 | | 2017-01-05 | 0.00 | | 2017-01-06 | 50.00 | | 2017-01-07 | 0.00 | | 2017-01-08 | 180.00 | | 2017-01-09 | 0.00 | | 2017-01-10 | 5.00 | +------------+-----------+
Some points to note:
Are the queries inefficient, particularly the one with the
MAX()subquery executed for each row in the recursive
SELECT? Checking with
EXPLAINshows that the subqueries are optimized away for efficiency.
The use of
sum_pricecolumn on days for which no sales data occur in the
Recursive common table expressions are useful for traversing
data that forms a hierarchy. Consider these statements that
create a small data set that shows, for each employee in a
company, the employee name and ID number, and the ID of the
employee's manager. The top-level employee (the CEO), has a
manager ID of
NULL (no manager).
CREATE TABLE employees ( id INT PRIMARY KEY NOT NULL, name VARCHAR(100) NOT NULL, manager_id INT NULL, INDEX (manager_id), FOREIGN KEY (manager_id) REFERENCES employees (id) ); INSERT INTO employees VALUES (333, "Yasmina", NULL), # Yasmina is the CEO (manager_id is NULL) (198, "John", 333), # John has ID 198 and reports to 333 (Yasmina) (692, "Tarek", 333), (29, "Pedro", 198), (4610, "Sarah", 29), (72, "Pierre", 29), (123, "Adil", 692);
The resulting data set looks like this:
mysql> SELECT * FROM employees ORDER BY id; +------+---------+------------+ | id | name | manager_id | +------+---------+------------+ | 29 | Pedro | 198 | | 72 | Pierre | 29 | | 123 | Adil | 692 | | 198 | John | 333 | | 333 | Yasmina | NULL | | 692 | Tarek | 333 | | 4610 | Sarah | 29 | +------+---------+------------+
To produce the organizational chart with the management chain for each employee (that is, the path from CEO to employee), use a recursive CTE:
WITH RECURSIVE employee_paths (id, name, path) AS ( SELECT id, name, CAST(id AS CHAR(200)) FROM employees WHERE manager_id IS NULL UNION ALL SELECT e.id, e.name, CONCAT(ep.path, ',', e.id) FROM employee_paths AS ep JOIN employees AS e ON ep.id = e.manager_id ) SELECT * FROM employee_paths ORDER BY path;
The CTE produces this output:
+------+---------+-----------------+ | id | name | path | +------+---------+-----------------+ | 333 | Yasmina | 333 | | 198 | John | 333,198 | | 29 | Pedro | 333,198,29 | | 4610 | Sarah | 333,198,29,4610 | | 72 | Pierre | 333,198,29,72 | | 692 | Tarek | 333,692 | | 123 | Adil | 333,692,123 | +------+---------+-----------------+
How the CTE works:
SELECTproduces the row for the CEO (the row with a
pathcolumn is widened to
CHAR(200)to ensure that there is room for the longer
pathvalues produced by the recursive
Each row produced by the recursive
SELECTfinds all employees who report directly to an employee produced by a previous row. For each such employee, the row includes the employee ID and name, and the employee management chain. The chain is the manager's chain, with the employee ID added to the end.
Recursion ends when employees have no others who report to them.
mysql> WITH RECURSIVE ... ... SELECT * FROM employees_extended WHERE id IN (692, 4610) ORDER BY path; +------+-------+-----------------+ | id | name | path | +------+-------+-----------------+ | 4610 | Sarah | 333,198,29,4610 | | 692 | Tarek | 333,692 | +------+-------+-----------------+
Common table expressions (CTEs) are similar to derived tables in some ways:
Both constructs are named.
Both constructs exist for the scope of a single statement.
Because of these similarities, CTEs and derived tables often can be used interchangeably. As a trivial example, these statements are equivalent:
WITH cte AS (SELECT 1) SELECT * FROM cte; SELECT * FROM (SELECT 1) AS dt;
However, CTEs have some advantages over derived tables:
A derived table can be referenced only a single time within a query. A CTE can be referenced multiple times. To use multiple instances of a derived table result, you must derive the result multiple times.
A CTE can be self-referencing (recursive).
One CTE can refer to another.
A CTE may be easier to read when its definition appears at the beginning of the statement rather than embedded within it.
CTEs are similar to tables created with
TABLE but need not be defined or dropped explicitly.
For a CTE, you need no privileges to create tables.