13.2.8.4 UNION Syntax

SELECT ...
UNION [ALL | DISTINCT] SELECT ...
[UNION [ALL | DISTINCT] SELECT ...]

UNION is used to combine the result from multiple SELECT statements into a single result set.

The column names from the first SELECT statement are used as the column names for the results returned. Selected columns listed in corresponding positions of each SELECT statement should have the same data type. (For example, the first column selected by the first statement should have the same type as the first column selected by the other statements.)

If the data types of corresponding SELECT columns do not match, the types and lengths of the columns in the UNION result take into account the values retrieved by all of the SELECT statements. For example, consider the following:

mysql> SELECT REPEAT('a',1) UNION SELECT REPEAT('b',10);
+---------------+
| REPEAT('a',1) |
+---------------+
| a             |
| bbbbbbbbbb    |
+---------------+

(In some earlier versions of MySQL, only the type and length from the first SELECT would have been used and the second row would have been truncated to a length of 1.)

The SELECT statements are normal select statements, but with the following restrictions:

The default behavior for UNION is that duplicate rows are removed from the result. The optional DISTINCT keyword has no effect other than the default because it also specifies duplicate-row removal. With the optional ALL keyword, duplicate-row removal does not occur and the result includes all matching rows from all the SELECT statements.

You can mix UNION ALL and UNION DISTINCT in the same query. Mixed UNION types are treated such that a DISTINCT union overrides any ALL union to its left. A DISTINCT union can be produced explicitly by using UNION DISTINCT or implicitly by using UNION with no following DISTINCT or ALL keyword.

To apply ORDER BY or LIMIT to an individual SELECT, place the clause inside the parentheses that enclose the SELECT:

(SELECT a FROM t1 WHERE a=10 AND B=1 ORDER BY a LIMIT 10)
UNION
(SELECT a FROM t2 WHERE a=11 AND B=2 ORDER BY a LIMIT 10);

However, use of ORDER BY for individual SELECT statements implies nothing about the order in which the rows appear in the final result because UNION by default produces an unordered set of rows. Therefore, the use of ORDER BY in this context is typically in conjunction with LIMIT, so that it is used to determine the subset of the selected rows to retrieve for the SELECT, even though it does not necessarily affect the order of those rows in the final UNION result. If ORDER BY appears without LIMIT in a SELECT, it is optimized away because it will have no effect anyway.

To use an ORDER BY or LIMIT clause to sort or limit the entire UNION result, parenthesize the individual SELECT statements and place the ORDER BY or LIMIT after the last one. The following example uses both clauses:

(SELECT a FROM t1 WHERE a=10 AND B=1)
UNION
(SELECT a FROM t2 WHERE a=11 AND B=2)
ORDER BY a LIMIT 10;

A statement without parentheses is equivalent to one parenthesized as just shown.

This kind of ORDER BY cannot use column references that include a table name (that is, names in tbl_name.col_name format). Instead, provide a column alias in the first SELECT statement and refer to the alias in the ORDER BY. (Alternatively, refer to the column in the ORDER BY using its column position. However, use of column positions is deprecated.)

Also, if a column to be sorted is aliased, the ORDER BY clause must refer to the alias, not the column name. The first of the following statements will work, but the second will fail with an Unknown column 'a' in 'order clause' error:

(SELECT a AS b FROM t) UNION (SELECT ...) ORDER BY b;
(SELECT a AS b FROM t) UNION (SELECT ...) ORDER BY a;

To cause rows in a UNION result to consist of the sets of rows retrieved by each SELECT one after the other, select an additional column in each SELECT to use as a sort column and add an ORDER BY following the last SELECT:

(SELECT 1 AS sort_col, col1a, col1b, ... FROM t1)
UNION
(SELECT 2, col2a, col2b, ... FROM t2) ORDER BY sort_col;

To additionally maintain sort order within individual SELECT results, add a secondary column to the ORDER BY clause:

(SELECT 1 AS sort_col, col1a, col1b, ... FROM t1)
UNION
(SELECT 2, col2a, col2b, ... FROM t2) ORDER BY sort_col, col1a;

Use of an additional column also enables you to determine which SELECT each row comes from. Extra columns can provide other identifying information as well, such as a string that indicates a table name.