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Oracle® Database SQL Language Reference
12c Release 1 (12.1)

E17209-15
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Literals

The terms literal and constant value are synonymous and refer to a fixed data value. For example, 'JACK', 'BLUE ISLAND', and '101' are all character literals; 5001 is a numeric literal. Character literals are enclosed in single quotation marks so that Oracle can distinguish them from schema object names.

This section contains these topics:

Many SQL statements and functions require you to specify character and numeric literal values. You can also specify literals as part of expressions and conditions. You can specify character literals with the 'text' notation, national character literals with the N'text' notation, and numeric literals with the integer, or number notation, depending on the context of the literal. The syntactic forms of these notations appear in the sections that follow.

To specify a datetime or interval data type as a literal, you must take into account any optional precisions included in the data types. Examples of specifying datetime and interval data types as literals are provided in the relevant sections of "Data Types".

Text Literals

Use the text literal notation to specify values whenever string appears in the syntax of expressions, conditions, SQL functions, and SQL statements in other parts of this reference. This reference uses the terms text literal, character literal, and string interchangeably. Text, character, and string literals are always surrounded by single quotation marks. If the syntax uses the term char, then you can specify either a text literal or another expression that resolves to character data — for example, the last_name column of the hr.employees table. When char appears in the syntax, the single quotation marks are not used.

The syntax of text literals or strings follows:

string::=

Description of string.gif follows
Description of the illustration string.gif

where N or n specifies the literal using the national character set (NCHAR or NVARCHAR2 data). By default, text entered using this notation is translated into the national character set by way of the database character set when used by the server. To avoid potential loss of data during the text literal conversion to the database character set, set the environment variable ORA_NCHAR_LITERAL_REPLACE to TRUE. Doing so transparently replaces the n' internally and preserves the text literal for SQL processing.

See Also:

Oracle Database Globalization Support Guide for more information about N-quoted literals

In the top branch of the syntax:

  • c is any member of the user's character set. A single quotation mark (') within the literal must be preceded by an escape character. To represent one single quotation mark within a literal, enter two single quotation marks.

  • ' ' are two single quotation marks that begin and end text literals.

In the bottom branch of the syntax:

  • Q or q indicates that the alternative quoting mechanism will be used. This mechanism allows a wide range of delimiters for the text string.

  • The outermost ' ' are two single quotation marks that precede and follow, respectively, the opening and closing quote_delimiter.

  • c is any member of the user's character set. You can include quotation marks (") in the text literal made up of c characters. You can also include the quote_delimiter, as long as it is not immediately followed by a single quotation mark.

  • quote_delimiter is any single- or multibyte character except space, tab, and return. The quote_delimiter can be a single quotation mark. However, if the quote_delimiter appears in the text literal itself, ensure that it is not immediately followed by a single quotation mark.

    If the opening quote_delimiter is one of [, {, <, or (, then the closing quote_delimiter must be the corresponding ], }, >, or ). In all other cases, the opening and closing quote_delimiter must be the same character.

Text literals have properties of both the CHAR and VARCHAR2 data types:

  • Within expressions and conditions, Oracle treats text literals as though they have the data type CHAR by comparing them using blank-padded comparison semantics.

  • A text literal can have a maximum length of 4000 bytes if the initialization parameter MAX_STRING_SIZE = STANDARD, and 32767 bytes if MAX_STRING_SIZE = EXTENDED. See "Extended Data Types" for more information.

Here are some valid text literals:

'Hello'
'ORACLE.dbs'
'Jackie''s raincoat'
'09-MAR-98'
N'nchar literal'

Here are some valid text literals using the alternative quoting mechanism:

q'!name LIKE '%DBMS_%%'!'
q'<'So,' she said, 'It's finished.'>'
q'{SELECT * FROM employees WHERE last_name = 'Smith';}'
nq'ï Ÿ1234 ï'
q'"name like '['"'

Numeric Literals

Use numeric literal notation to specify fixed and floating-point numbers.

Integer Literals

You must use the integer notation to specify an integer whenever integer appears in expressions, conditions, SQL functions, and SQL statements described in other parts of this reference.

The syntax of integer follows:

integer::=

Description of integer.gif follows
Description of the illustration integer.gif

where digit is one of 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9.

An integer can store a maximum of 38 digits of precision.

Here are some valid integers:

7
+255

NUMBER and Floating-Point Literals

You must use the number or floating-point notation to specify values whenever number or n appears in expressions, conditions, SQL functions, and SQL statements in other parts of this reference.

The syntax of number follows:

number::=

Description of number.gif follows
Description of the illustration number.gif

where

  • + or - indicates a positive or negative value. If you omit the sign, then a positive value is the default.

  • digit is one of 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 or 9.

  • e or E indicates that the number is specified in scientific notation. The digits after the E specify the exponent. The exponent can range from -130 to 125.

  • f or F indicates that the number is a 32-bit binary floating point number of type BINARY_FLOAT.

  • d or D indicates that the number is a 64-bit binary floating point number of type BINARY_DOUBLE.

    If you omit f or F and d or D, then the number is of type NUMBER.

    The suffixes f (F) and d (D) are supported only in floating-point number literals, not in character strings that are to be converted to NUMBER. For example, if Oracle is expecting a NUMBER and it encounters the string '9', then it converts the string to the number 9. However, if Oracle encounters the string '9f', then conversion fails and an error is returned.

A number of type NUMBER can store a maximum of 38 digits of precision. If the literal requires more precision than provided by NUMBER, BINARY_FLOAT, or BINARY_DOUBLE, then Oracle truncates the value. If the range of the literal exceeds the range supported by NUMBER, BINARY_FLOAT, or BINARY_DOUBLE, then Oracle raises an error.

If you have established a decimal character other than a period (.) with the initialization parameter NLS_NUMERIC_CHARACTERS, then you must specify numeric literals with 'text' notation. In these cases, Oracle automatically converts the text literal to a numeric value.

Note:

You cannot use this notation for floating-point number literals.

For example, if the NLS_NUMERIC_CHARACTERS parameter specifies a decimal character of comma, specify the number 5.123 as follows:

'5,123'

Here are some valid NUMBER literals:

25
+6.34
0.5
25e-03
-1

Here are some valid floating-point number literals:

25f
+6.34F
0.5d
-1D

You can also use the following supplied floating-point literals in situations where a value cannot be expressed as a numeric literal:

Literal Meaning Example
binary_float_nan A value of type BINARY_FLOAT for which the condition IS NAN is true
SELECT COUNT(*) 
  FROM employees 
  WHERE TO_BINARY_FLOAT(commission_pct)
     != BINARY_FLOAT_NAN;
binary_float_infinity Single-precision positive infinity
SELECT COUNT(*) 
  FROM employees 
  WHERE salary < BINARY_FLOAT_INFINITY;
binary_double_nan A value of type BINARY_DOUBLE for which the condition IS NAN is true
SELECT COUNT(*) 
  FROM employees 
  WHERE TO_BINARY_FLOAT(commission_pct)
     != BINARY_FLOAT_NAN;
binary_double_infinity Double-precision positive infinity
SELECT COUNT(*) 
  FROM employees 
  WHERE salary < BINARY_DOUBLE_INFINITY;

Datetime Literals

Oracle Database supports four datetime data types: DATE, TIMESTAMP, TIMESTAMP WITH TIME ZONE, and TIMESTAMP WITH LOCAL TIME ZONE.

Date Literals You can specify a DATE value as a string literal, or you can convert a character or numeric value to a date value with the TO_DATE function. DATE literals are the only case in which Oracle Database accepts a TO_DATE expression in place of a string literal.

To specify a DATE value as a literal, you must use the Gregorian calendar. You can specify an ANSI literal, as shown in this example:

DATE '1998-12-25'

The ANSI date literal contains no time portion, and must be specified in the format 'YYYY-MM-DD'. Alternatively you can specify an Oracle date value, as in the following example:

TO_DATE('98-DEC-25 17:30','YY-MON-DD HH24:MI')

The default date format for an Oracle DATE value is specified by the initialization parameter NLS_DATE_FORMAT. This example date format includes a two-digit number for the day of the month, an abbreviation of the month name, the last two digits of the year, and a 24-hour time designation.

Oracle automatically converts character values that are in the default date format into date values when they are used in date expressions.

If you specify a date value without a time component, then the default time is midnight (00:00:00 or 12:00:00 for 24-hour and 12-hour clock time, respectively). If you specify a date value without a date, then the default date is the first day of the current month.

Oracle DATE columns always contain both the date and time fields. Therefore, if you query a DATE column, then you must either specify the time field in your query or ensure that the time fields in the DATE column are set to midnight. Otherwise, Oracle may not return the query results you expect. You can use the TRUNC date function to set the time field to midnight, or you can include a greater-than or less-than condition in the query instead of an equality or inequality condition.

Here are some examples that assume a table my_table with a number column row_num and a DATE column datecol:

INSERT INTO my_table VALUES (1, SYSDATE);
INSERT INTO my_table VALUES (2, TRUNC(SYSDATE));

SELECT *
  FROM my_table;

   ROW_NUM DATECOL
---------- ---------
         1 03-OCT-02
         2 03-OCT-02

SELECT *
  FROM my_table
  WHERE datecol > TO_DATE('02-OCT-02', 'DD-MON-YY');

   ROW_NUM DATECOL
---------- ---------
         1 03-OCT-02
         2 03-OCT-02

SELECT *
  FROM my_table
  WHERE datecol = TO_DATE('03-OCT-02','DD-MON-YY');

   ROW_NUM DATECOL
---------- ---------
         2 03-OCT-02

If you know that the time fields of your DATE column are set to midnight, then you can query your DATE column as shown in the immediately preceding example, or by using the DATE literal:

SELECT *
  FROM my_table
  WHERE datecol = DATE '2002-10-03';


   ROW_NUM DATECOL
---------- ---------
         2 03-OCT-02

However, if the DATE column contains values other than midnight, then you must filter out the time fields in the query to get the correct result. For example:

SELECT *
  FROM my_table
  WHERE TRUNC(datecol) = DATE '2002-10-03';


   ROW_NUM DATECOL
---------- ---------
         1 03-OCT-02
         2 03-OCT-02

Oracle applies the TRUNC function to each row in the query, so performance is better if you ensure the midnight value of the time fields in your data. To ensure that the time fields are set to midnight, use one of the following methods during inserts and updates:

  • Use the TO_DATE function to mask out the time fields:

    INSERT INTO my_table
      VALUES (3, TO_DATE('3-OCT-2002','DD-MON-YYYY'));
    
  • Use the DATE literal:

    INSERT INTO my_table
      VALUES (4, '03-OCT-02');
    
  • Use the TRUNC function:

    INSERT INTO my_table
      VALUES (5, TRUNC(SYSDATE));
    

The date function SYSDATE returns the current system date and time. The function CURRENT_DATE returns the current session date. For information on SYSDATE, the TO_* datetime functions, and the default date format, see "Datetime Functions".

TIMESTAMP Literals The TIMESTAMP data type stores year, month, day, hour, minute, and second, and fractional second values. When you specify TIMESTAMP as a literal, the fractional_seconds_precision value can be any number of digits up to 9, as follows:

TIMESTAMP '1997-01-31 09:26:50.124'

TIMESTAMP WITH TIME ZONE Literals The TIMESTAMP WITH TIME ZONE data type is a variant of TIMESTAMP that includes a time zone region name or time zone offset. When you specify TIMESTAMP WITH TIME ZONE as a literal, the fractional_seconds_precision value can be any number of digits up to 9. For example:

TIMESTAMP '1997-01-31 09:26:56.66 +02:00'

Two TIMESTAMP WITH TIME ZONE values are considered identical if they represent the same instant in UTC, regardless of the TIME ZONE offsets stored in the data. For example,

TIMESTAMP '1999-04-15 8:00:00 -8:00'

is the same as

TIMESTAMP '1999-04-15 11:00:00 -5:00'

8:00 a.m. Pacific Standard Time is the same as 11:00 a.m. Eastern Standard Time.

You can replace the UTC offset with the TZR (time zone region name) format element. For example, the following example has the same value as the preceding example:

TIMESTAMP '1999-04-15 8:00:00 US/Pacific'

To eliminate the ambiguity of boundary cases when the daylight saving time switches, use both the TZR and a corresponding TZD format element. The following example ensures that the preceding example will return a daylight saving time value:

TIMESTAMP '1999-10-29 01:30:00 US/Pacific PDT'

You can also express the time zone offset using a datetime expression:

SELECT TIMESTAMP '2009-10-29 01:30:00' AT TIME ZONE 'US/Pacific'
  FROM DUAL;

See Also:

"Datetime Expressions" for more information

If you do not add the TZD format element, and the datetime value is ambiguous, then Oracle returns an error if you have the ERROR_ON_OVERLAP_TIME session parameter set to TRUE. If that parameter is set to FALSE, then Oracle interprets the ambiguous datetime as standard time in the specified region.

TIMESTAMP WITH LOCAL TIME ZONE Literals The TIMESTAMP WITH LOCAL TIME ZONE data type differs from TIMESTAMP WITH TIME ZONE in that data stored in the database is normalized to the database time zone. The time zone offset is not stored as part of the column data. There is no literal for TIMESTAMP WITH LOCAL TIME ZONE. Rather, you represent values of this data type using any of the other valid datetime literals. The table that follows shows some of the formats you can use to insert a value into a TIMESTAMP WITH LOCAL TIME ZONE column, along with the corresponding value returned by a query.

Value Specified in INSERT Statement Value Returned by Query
'19-FEB-2004' 19-FEB-2004.00.00.000000 AM
SYSTIMESTAMP 19-FEB-04 02.54.36.497659 PM
TO_TIMESTAMP('19-FEB-2004', 'DD-MON-YYYY') 19-FEB-04 12.00.00.000000 AM
SYSDATE 19-FEB-04 02.55.29.000000 PM
TO_DATE('19-FEB-2004', 'DD-MON-YYYY') 19-FEB-04 12.00.00.000000 AM
TIMESTAMP'2004-02-19 8:00:00 US/Pacific' 19-FEB-04 08.00.00.000000 AM

Notice that if the value specified does not include a time component (either explicitly or implicitly), then the value returned defaults to midnight.

Interval Literals

An interval literal specifies a period of time. You can specify these differences in terms of years and months, or in terms of days, hours, minutes, and seconds. Oracle Database supports two types of interval literals, YEAR TO MONTH and DAY TO SECOND. Each type contains a leading field and may contain a trailing field. The leading field defines the basic unit of date or time being measured. The trailing field defines the smallest increment of the basic unit being considered. For example, a YEAR TO MONTH interval considers an interval of years to the nearest month. A DAY TO MINUTE interval considers an interval of days to the nearest minute.

If you have date data in numeric form, then you can use the NUMTOYMINTERVAL or NUMTODSINTERVAL conversion function to convert the numeric data into interval values.

Interval literals are used primarily with analytic functions.

INTERVAL YEAR TO MONTH

Specify YEAR TO MONTH interval literals using the following syntax:

interval_year_to_month::=

Description of interval_year_to_month.gif follows
Description of the illustration interval_year_to_month.gif

where

  • 'integer [-integer]' specifies integer values for the leading and optional trailing field of the literal. If the leading field is YEAR and the trailing field is MONTH, then the range of integer values for the month field is 0 to 11.

  • precision is the maximum number of digits in the leading field. The valid range of the leading field precision is 0 to 9 and its default value is 2.

Restriction on the Leading Field If you specify a trailing field, then it must be less significant than the leading field. For example, INTERVAL '0-1' MONTH TO YEAR is not valid.

The following INTERVAL YEAR TO MONTH literal indicates an interval of 123 years, 2 months:

INTERVAL '123-2' YEAR(3) TO MONTH

Examples of the other forms of the literal follow, including some abbreviated versions:

Form of Interval Literal Interpretation
INTERVAL '123-2' YEAR(3) TO MONTH An interval of 123 years, 2 months. You must specify the leading field precision if it is greater than the default of 2 digits.
INTERVAL '123' YEAR(3) An interval of 123 years 0 months.
INTERVAL '300' MONTH(3) An interval of 300 months.
INTERVAL '4' YEAR Maps to INTERVAL '4-0' YEAR TO MONTH and indicates 4 years.
INTERVAL '50' MONTH Maps to INTERVAL '4-2' YEAR TO MONTH and indicates 50 months or 4 years 2 months.
INTERVAL '123' YEAR Returns an error, because the default precision is 2, and '123' has 3 digits.

You can add or subtract one INTERVAL YEAR TO MONTH literal to or from another to yield another INTERVAL YEAR TO MONTH literal. For example:

INTERVAL '5-3' YEAR TO MONTH + INTERVAL'20' MONTH = 
INTERVAL '6-11' YEAR TO MONTH

INTERVAL DAY TO SECOND

Specify DAY TO SECOND interval literals using the following syntax:

interval_day_to_second::=

Description of interval_day_to_second.gif follows
Description of the illustration interval_day_to_second.gif

where

  • integer specifies the number of days. If this value contains more digits than the number specified by the leading precision, then Oracle returns an error.

  • time_expr specifies a time in the format HH[:MI[:SS[.n]]] or MI[:SS[.n]] or SS[.n], where n specifies the fractional part of a second. If n contains more digits than the number specified by fractional_seconds_precision, then n is rounded to the number of digits specified by the fractional_seconds_precision value. You can specify time_expr following an integer and a space only if the leading field is DAY.

  • leading_precision is the number of digits in the leading field. Accepted values are 0 to 9. The default is 2.

  • fractional_seconds_precision is the number of digits in the fractional part of the SECOND datetime field. Accepted values are 1 to 9. The default is 6.

Restriction on the Leading Field: If you specify a trailing field, then it must be less significant than the leading field. For example, INTERVAL MINUTE TO DAY is not valid. As a result of this restriction, if SECOND is the leading field, the interval literal cannot have any trailing field.

The valid range of values for the trailing field are as follows:

  • HOUR: 0 to 23

  • MINUTE: 0 to 59

  • SECOND: 0 to 59.999999999

Examples of the various forms of INTERVAL DAY TO SECOND literals follow, including some abbreviated versions:

Form of Interval Literal Interpretation
INTERVAL '4 5:12:10.222' DAY TO SECOND(3) 4 days, 5 hours, 12 minutes, 10 seconds, and 222 thousandths of a second.
INTERVAL '4 5:12' DAY TO MINUTE 4 days, 5 hours and 12 minutes.
INTERVAL '400 5' DAY(3) TO HOUR 400 days 5 hours.
INTERVAL '400' DAY(3) 400 days.
INTERVAL '11:12:10.2222222' HOUR TO SECOND(7) 11 hours, 12 minutes, and 10.2222222 seconds.
INTERVAL '11:20' HOUR TO MINUTE 11 hours and 20 minutes.
INTERVAL '10' HOUR 10 hours.
INTERVAL '10:22' MINUTE TO SECOND 10 minutes 22 seconds.
INTERVAL '10' MINUTE 10 minutes.
INTERVAL '4' DAY 4 days.
INTERVAL '25' HOUR 25 hours.
INTERVAL '40' MINUTE 40 minutes.
INTERVAL '120' HOUR(3) 120 hours.
INTERVAL '30.12345' SECOND(2,4) 30.1235 seconds. The fractional second '12345' is rounded to '1235' because the precision is 4.

You can add or subtract one DAY TO SECOND interval literal from another DAY TO SECOND literal. For example.

INTERVAL'20' DAY - INTERVAL'240' HOUR = INTERVAL'10-0' DAY TO SECOND