8.2.1.15 Optimizing LIMIT Queries

If you need only a specified number of rows from a result set, use a LIMIT clause in the query, rather than fetching the whole result set and throwing away the extra data.

MySQL sometimes optimizes a query that has a LIMIT row_count clause and no HAVING clause:

If multiple rows have identical values in the ORDER BY columns, the server is free to return those rows in any order, and may do so differently depending on the overall execution plan. In other words, the sort order of those rows is nondeterministic with respect to the nonordered columns.

One factor that affects the execution plan is LIMIT, so an ORDER BY query with and without LIMIT may return rows in different orders. Consider this query, which is sorted by the category column but nondeterministic with respect to the id and rating columns:

mysql> SELECT * FROM ratings ORDER BY category;
+----+----------+--------+
| id | category | rating |
+----+----------+--------+
|  1 |        1 |    4.5 |
|  5 |        1 |    3.2 |
|  3 |        2 |    3.7 |
|  4 |        2 |    3.5 |
|  6 |        2 |    3.5 |
|  2 |        3 |    5.0 |
|  7 |        3 |    2.7 |
+----+----------+--------+

Including LIMIT may affect order of rows within each category value. For example, this is a valid query result:

mysql> SELECT * FROM ratings ORDER BY category LIMIT 5;
+----+----------+--------+
| id | category | rating |
+----+----------+--------+
|  1 |        1 |    4.5 |
|  5 |        1 |    3.2 |
|  4 |        2 |    3.5 |
|  3 |        2 |    3.7 |
|  6 |        2 |    3.5 |
+----+----------+--------+

In each case, the rows are sorted by the ORDER BY column, which is all that is required by the SQL standard.

If it is important to ensure the same row order with and without LIMIT, include additional columns in the ORDER BY clause to make the order deterministic. For example, if id values are unique, you can sort to make rows for a given category value appear in id order:

mysql> SELECT * FROM ratings ORDER BY category, id;
+----+----------+--------+
| id | category | rating |
+----+----------+--------+
|  1 |        1 |    4.5 |
|  5 |        1 |    3.2 |
|  3 |        2 |    3.7 |
|  4 |        2 |    3.5 |
|  6 |        2 |    3.5 |
|  2 |        3 |    5.0 |
|  7 |        3 |    2.7 |
+----+----------+--------+

mysql> SELECT * FROM ratings ORDER BY category, id LIMIT 5;
+----+----------+--------+
| id | category | rating |
+----+----------+--------+
|  1 |        1 |    4.5 |
|  5 |        1 |    3.2 |
|  3 |        2 |    3.7 |
|  4 |        2 |    3.5 |
|  6 |        2 |    3.5 |
+----+----------+--------+