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Coalesce in SQL enables one to make a lot of complex programs. In SQL, COALESCE is a function that is used to return the first non-null value from a list of expressions. This function is particularly useful when you need to replace a null value with a specific value or when you need to select the first non-null value from a list of columns or variables.

The syntax of the COALESCE function is as follows:
COALESCE(expression1, expression2, …, expressionN)

In this syntax, expression1 through expressionN are the values that are evaluated in order. The first non-null value is returned.

For example, let’s assume we have a table called employees with columns name, age, and salary. If we want to select the first non-null value from the age and salary columns, we can use the following query:

SELECT COALESCE(age, salary) AS value
FROM employees;

In this query, if age is not null, then age will be returned. Otherwise, if age is null, then salary will be returned.

We can also use the COALESCE function to replace a null value with a specific value. For example, let’s assume we have a table called orders with columns order_id, customer_name, and order_date. If we want to replace any null values in the customer_name column with the value “unknown”, we can use the following query:

SELECT order_id, COALESCE(customer_name, ‘unknown’) AS customer_name, order_date
FROM orders;

In this query, if customer_name is not null, then customer_name will be returned. Otherwise, if customer_name is null, then the string “unknown” will be returned.

In summary, the COALESCE function is a powerful tool in SQL that allows you to select the first non-null value from a list of expressions or to replace a null value with a specific value. It is a useful function to have in your SQL toolkit when working with databases that may contain null values.

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Last Updated: 2022-07-21
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What is a Null Value?

In SQL, a null value represents a missing or unknown value in a column of a table. A null value is not the same as a zero value, an empty string, or a space character – it is a distinct value that means “unknown” or “unavailable.”

Null values can occur in several situations, such as when a value has not been provided or when a value cannot be determined. For example, if a person’s birthdate is not known, the birthdate column in the database table might be assigned a null value
It’s important to note that null values can affect the behaviour of SQL queries and functions. For example, if you try to compare a null value to any other value using the equals sign (=), the result will always be unknown (represented by the keyword “NULL”). Similarly, if you perform any mathematical operation involving a null value, the result will always be a null value.
Handling null values properly is an important part of SQL database design and programming. It’s often necessary to use functions such as IS NULL, IS NOT NULL, or COALESCE to handle null values in SQL queries and statements.

Coalesce Pivoting:

The COALESCE function in SQL can be used to pivot data by combining multiple rows into a single row based on a common column value. Pivoting with COALESCE involves selecting a single value from a set of rows for each unique value in a column, and combining them into a single row.

Here’s an example of how to pivot data using COALESCE:

Suppose we have a table called sales with columns product_name, month, and revenue, and we want to pivot the data so that we have one row per product_name, and one column for each month value, showing the revenue for that month.

We can do this using a combination of COALESCE and conditional aggregation:
COALESCE([January], 0) AS January,
COALESCE([February], 0) AS February,
COALESCE([March], 0) AS March,
COALESCE([April], 0) AS April,
COALESCE([May], 0) AS May,
COALESCE([June], 0) AS June,
COALESCE([July], 0) AS July,
COALESCE([August], 0) AS August,
COALESCE([September], 0) AS September,
COALESCE([October], 0) AS October,
COALESCE([November], 0) AS November,
COALESCE([December], 0) AS December

FROM sales) AS SourceTable
(SUM(revenue) FOR month IN
([January], [February], [March], [April], [May], [June], [July],
[August], [September], [October], [November], [December])
) AS PivotTable;

In this example, we use the PIVOT operator to pivot the data based on the month column. We also use COALESCE to replace any NULL values with 0, so that we have a value for each column in the result set.

By using COALESCE in conjunction with PIVOT, we can easily pivot data in SQL and transform it into a more useful format for analysis and reporting.

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A recent graduate in Political Science from Lady Shri Ram College for Women, Ashli is a published researcher and a poet. She is currently working as a technical writer at Learnfly. She is a huge admirer of British thespian, American sitcoms and crime thrillers in languages with subtitles. She loves exploring art in all forms and is equipped with learning coding and video-editing skills, in her free time.