Oracle IS NULL

Summary: in this tutorial, you will learn how to use the Oracle IS NULL and IS NOT NULL operators to check if a value in a column or an expression is NULL or not.

Introduction to the Oracle IS NULL operator

In the database world, NULL is special. It is a marker for missing information or the information is not applicable.

NULL is special in the sense that it is not a value like a number, character string, or datetime, therefore, you cannot compare it with any other values like zero (0) or an empty string (”). Generally speaking, NULL is even not equal to NULL.

Let’s see the orders table from the sample database.

orders table

The salesman_id column stores the salesman id of the salesman who is in charge of the sales order.

The following SELECT statement attempts to return all sales orders which do not have a responsible salesman:

SELECT * FROM orders WHERE salesman_id = NULL ORDER BY order_date DESC;
Code language: SQL (Structured Query Language) (sql)

It returns an empty row.

The query uses the comparison operator (=) to compare the values from the salesman_id column with NULL, which is not correct.

To check if a value is NULL or not, you should use the IS NULL operator as follows:

expression | column IS NULL
Code language: SQL (Structured Query Language) (sql)

The IS NULL operator returns true if the expression or column is NULL. Otherwise, it returns false.

The following query returns all sales orders that do not have a responsible salesman:

SELECT * FROM orders WHERE salesman_id IS NULL ORDER BY order_date DESC;
Code language: SQL (Structured Query Language) (sql)

Here is the partial output of the query:

oracle is null operator example

Oracle IS NOT NULL operator

To negate the IS NULL operator, you use the IS NOT NULL operator as follows:

expression | column IS NOT NULL
Code language: SQL (Structured Query Language) (sql)

The operator IS NOT NULL returns true if the expression or value in the column is not null. Otherwise, it returns false.

For example, the following example returns all sales orders which have a responsible salesman:

SELECT * FROM orders WHERE salesman_id IS NOT NULL ORDER BY order_date DESC;
Code language: SQL (Structured Query Language) (sql)

This picture illustrates the partial output:

oralce is not null operator example

In this tutorial, you have learned how to use the Oracle IS NULL and IS NOT NULL to check if an expression or value in a column is null or not.

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