Oracle Correlated Subquery

Summary: in this tutorial, you will learn about the Oracle correlated subquery which is a subquery whose some clauses refer to the column expressions in the outer query.

Introduction to the Oracle correlated subquery

See the following products table in the sample database:

Oracle Correlated Subquery - Products Table

The following query returns the cheapest products from the products table using a subquery in the WHERE clause.

SELECT product_id, product_name, list_price FROM products WHERE list_price =( SELECT MIN( list_price ) FROM products );
Code language: SQL (Structured Query Language) (sql)

Let’s examine this query in more detail.

First, you can execute the subquery independently.

SELECT MIN( list_price ) FROM products;
Code language: SQL (Structured Query Language) (sql)

Second, Oracle evaluates the subquery only once.

Third, after the subquery returns a result set, the outer query makes use of them. In other words, the outer query depends on the subquery. However, the subquery is isolated and not dependent on the values of the outer query.

Unlike the above subquery, a correlated subquery is a subquery that uses values from the outer query. In addition, a correlated subquery may be evaluated once for each row selected by the outer query. Because of this, a query that uses a correlated subquery could be slow.

A correlated subquery is also known as a repeating subquery or a synchronized subquery.

Oracle correlated subquery examples

Let’s take some examples of the correlated subqueries to better understand how they work.

A) Oracle correlated subquery in the WHERE clause example

The following query finds all products whose list price is above average for their category.

SELECT product_id, product_name, list_price FROM products p WHERE list_price > ( SELECT AVG( list_price ) FROM products WHERE category_id = p.category_id );
Code language: SQL (Structured Query Language) (sql)
Oracle Correlated Subquery in SELECT clause example

In the above query, the outer query is:

SELECT product_id, product_name, list_price FROM products p WHERE list_price >
Code language: SQL (Structured Query Language) (sql)

And the correlated subquery is:

SELECT AVG( list_price ) FROM products WHERE category_id = p.category_id
Code language: SQL (Structured Query Language) (sql)

For each product from the products table, Oracle has to execute the correlated subquery to calculate the average price by category.

B) Oracle correlated subquery in the SELECT clause example

The following query returns all products and the average standard cost based on the product category:

SELECT product_id, product_name, standard_cost, ROUND( ( SELECT AVG( standard_cost ) FROM products WHERE category_id = p.category_id ), 2 ) avg_standard_cost FROM products p ORDER BY product_name;
Code language: SQL (Structured Query Language) (sql)
Oracle Correlated Subquery in FROM clause example

For each product from the products table, Oracle executed the correlated subquery to calculate the average standard of cost for the product category.

Note that the above query used the ROUND() function to round the average standard cost to two decimals.

C) Oracle correlated subquery with the EXISTS operator example

We usually use a correlated subquery with the EXISTS operator. For example, the following statement returns all customers who have no orders:

SELECT customer_id, name FROM customers WHERE NOT EXISTS ( SELECT * FROM orders WHERE orders.customer_id = customers.customer_id ) ORDER BY name;
Code language: SQL (Structured Query Language) (sql)

In this tutorial, you have learned about the Oracle correlated subquery. Now, you should understand how the correlated subqueries work and know how to apply them effectively to query data.

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