Understanding SQL DML: A Detailed Exploration


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Structured Query Language (SQL) is a standardized programming language designed for managing data held in a relational database management system (RDBMS). In this blog post, we will dive into one of the most fundamental aspects of SQL: Data Manipulation Language (DML). The DML part of SQL allows you to work with and manipulate the data in the tables. The key DML commands include SELECT , INSERT , UPDATE , and DELETE . Let's dissect each of these commands in detail.


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The SELECT statement is used to select data from a database. The data returned is stored in a result table, sometimes called the result-set. It is the most commonly used DML command, and it allows you to choose the data you want to see from one or more tables.

Here's a basic example of a SELECT statement:

SELECT FirstName, LastName FROM Employees; 

In this example, the SELECT statement retrieves the FirstName and LastName of all employees in the Employees table.


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The INSERT INTO statement is used to insert new records in a table. You must specify the table name, column names, and the respective values for the columns.

Consider the following example:

INSERT INTO Employees (FirstName, LastName, Age) VALUES ('John', 'Doe', 32); 

This INSERT INTO statement adds a new record to the Employees table with the FirstName as 'John', LastName as 'Doe', and Age as 32.


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The UPDATE statement is used to modify the existing records in a table. You can change the data in one or more columns with this statement.

Here's how you might use an UPDATE statement:

UPDATE Employees SET Age = 33 WHERE FirstName = 'John' AND LastName = 'Doe'; 

This UPDATE statement changes the Age of the employee named 'John Doe' to 33 in the Employees table.


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The DELETE statement is used to delete existing records in a table. Be careful when using this command as it permanently removes records from your table.

Here's an example of a DELETE statement:

DELETE FROM Employees WHERE FirstName = 'John' AND LastName = 'Doe'; 

This DELETE statement removes the employee named 'John Doe' from the Employees table.

Other DML Operations

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The primary DML operations in SQL are SELECT , INSERT , UPDATE , and DELETE . These commands encompass the basic actions you can perform on data in a relational database management system (RDBMS).

However, SQL also provides other capabilities that, while not distinct DML operations, can be used in conjunction with the primary DML operations to provide more complex functionality. These include:

  1. Joins : As previously mentioned, SQL joins allow you to combine data from multiple tables into a single result set. There are several types of joins including INNER JOIN, LEFT (OUTER) JOIN, RIGHT (OUTER) JOIN, and FULL (OUTER) JOIN.

  2. Subqueries : A subquery is a query nested inside another query. Subqueries can return individual values or a list of records, and are typically used in WHERE or HAVING clauses to filter data based on complex criteria.

  3. Aggregation functions : SQL includes several aggregation functions that can be used in a SELECT statement, including COUNT , SUM , AVG , MAX , and MIN . These allow you to perform calculations on your data directly within your database.

  4. Grouping : The GROUP BY clause allows you to aggregate data by a specific column or columns, so that the aggregation functions apply to each group of records separately.

  5. Sorting : The ORDER BY clause allows you to sort the results of a SELECT statement by one or more columns.

  6. Limiting results : The LIMIT clause allows you to limit the number of rows returned by a SELECT statement. This can be particularly useful when working with large databases.

  7. Combining results : The UNION , INTERSECT , and EXCEPT commands allow you to combine the results of two or more SELECT statements in various ways.

These capabilities, when combined with the basic DML operations, give SQL its power and flexibility for manipulating data within relational databases.


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Understanding and mastering SQL DML commands is a fundamental skill for anyone working with databases. From selecting data to updating and deleting it, these commands allow you to interact with your data and build powerful, dynamic applications.

In our next blog post, we will explore SQL Data Definition Language (DDL) commands, which allow you to define, alter, and manage your databases and tables. Stay tuned for more SQL tips and tricks!