37.6. Basic Statements

In this section and the following ones, we describe all the statement types that are explicitly understood by PL/pgSQL. Anything not recognized as one of these statement types is presumed to be an SQL command and is sent to the main database engine to execute, as described in Section 37.6.2 and Section 37.6.3.

37.6.1. Assignment

An assignment of a value to a PL/pgSQL variable or row/record field is written as:

identifier := expression;

As explained above, the expression in such a statement is evaluated by means of an SQL SELECT command sent to the main database engine. The expression must yield a single value.

If the expression's result data type doesn't match the variable's data type, or the variable has a specific size/precision (like char(20)), the result value will be implicitly converted by the PL/pgSQL interpreter using the result type's output-function and the variable type's input-function. Note that this could potentially result in run-time errors generated by the input function, if the string form of the result value is not acceptable to the input function.


user_id := 20;
tax := subtotal * 0.06;

37.6.2. Executing a Query With No Result

For any SQL query that does not return rows, for example INSERT without a RETURNING clause, you can execute the query within a PL/pgSQL function just by writing the query.

Any PL/pgSQL variable name appearing in the query text is replaced by a parameter symbol, and then the current value of the variable is provided as the parameter value at run time. This allows the same textual query to do different things in different calls of the function.

Note: This two-step process allows PL/pgSQL to plan the query just once and re-use the plan on subsequent executions. As an example, if you write

    key TEXT;
    delta INTEGER;
    UPDATE mytab SET val = val + delta WHERE id = key;

the query text seen by the main SQL engine will look like

    UPDATE mytab SET val = val + $1 WHERE id = $2;

Although you don't normally have to think about this, it's helpful to know it when you need to make sense of syntax-error messages.


PL/pgSQL will substitute for any identifier matching one of the function's declared variables; it is not bright enough to know whether that's what you meant! Thus, it is a bad idea to use a variable name that is the same as any table or column name that you need to reference in queries within the function. Sometimes you can work around this by using qualified names in the query: PL/pgSQL will not substitute in a qualified name, even if foo or bar is a declared variable name.

Sometimes it is useful to evaluate an expression or SELECT query but discard the result, for example when calling a function that has side-effects but no useful result value. To do this in PL/pgSQL, use the PERFORM statement:

PERFORM query;

This executes query and discards the result. Write the query the same way you would write an SQL SELECT command, but replace the initial keyword SELECT with PERFORM. PL/pgSQL variables will be substituted into the query as usual. Also, the special variable FOUND is set to true if the query produced at least one row, or false if it produced no rows.

Note: One might expect that writing SELECT directly would accomplish this result, but at present the only accepted way to do it is PERFORM. A SQL command that can return rows, such as SELECT, will be rejected as an error unless it has an INTO clause as discussed in the next section.

An example:

PERFORM create_mv('cs_session_page_requests_mv', my_query);

37.6.3. Executing a Query with a Single-Row Result

The result of a SQL command yielding a single row (possibly of multiple columns) can be assigned to a record variable, row-type variable, or list of scalar variables. This is done by writing the base SQL command and adding an INTO clause. For example,

SELECT select_expressions INTO [STRICT] target FROM ...;
INSERT ... RETURNING expressions INTO [STRICT] target;
UPDATE ... RETURNING expressions INTO [STRICT] target;
DELETE ... RETURNING expressions INTO [STRICT] target;

where target can be a record variable, a row variable, or a comma-separated list of simple variables and record/row fields. PL/pgSQL variables will be substituted into the rest of the query as usual. This works for SELECT, INSERT/UPDATE/DELETE with RETURNING, and utility commands that return row-set results (such as EXPLAIN). Except for the INTO clause, the SQL command is the same as it would be written outside PL/pgSQL.

Tip: Note that this interpretation of SELECT with INTO is quite different from PostgreSQL's regular SELECT INTO command, wherein the INTO target is a newly created table. If you want to create a table from a SELECT result inside a PL/pgSQL function, use the syntax CREATE TABLE ... AS SELECT.

If a row or a variable list is used as target, the query's result columns must exactly match the structure of the target as to number and data types, or a run-time error occurs. When a record variable is the target, it automatically configures itself to the row type of the query result columns.

The INTO clause can appear almost anywhere in the SQL command. Customarily it is written either just before or just after the list of select_expressions in a SELECT command, or at the end of the command for other command types. It is recommended that you follow this convention in case the PL/pgSQL parser becomes stricter in future versions.

If STRICT is not specified, then target will be set to the first row returned by the query, or to nulls if the query returned no rows. (Note that "the first row" is not well-defined unless you've used ORDER BY.) Any result rows after the first row are discarded. You can check the special FOUND variable (see Section 37.6.6) to determine whether a row was returned:

SELECT * INTO myrec FROM emp WHERE empname = myname;
    RAISE EXCEPTION 'employee % not found', myname;

If the STRICT option is specified, the query must return exactly one row or a run-time error will be reported, either NO_DATA_FOUND (no rows) or TOO_MANY_ROWS (more than one row). You can use an exception block if you wish to catch the error, for example:

    SELECT * INTO STRICT myrec FROM emp WHERE empname = myname;
            RAISE EXCEPTION 'employee % not found', myname;
            RAISE EXCEPTION 'employee % not unique', myname;

Successful execution of a command with STRICT always sets FOUND to true.

For INSERT/UPDATE/DELETE with RETURNING, PL/pgSQL reports an error for more than one returned row, even when STRICT is not specified. This is because there is no option such as ORDER BY with which to determine which affected row would be returned.

Note: The STRICT option matches the behavior of Oracle PL/SQL's SELECT INTO and related statements.

To handle cases where you need to process multiple result rows from a SQL query, see Section 37.7.4.

37.6.4. Doing Nothing At All

Sometimes a placeholder statement that does nothing is useful. For example, it can indicate that one arm of an if/then/else chain is deliberately empty. For this purpose, use the NULL statement:


For example, the following two fragments of code are equivalent:

        y := x / 0;
        WHEN division_by_zero THEN
            NULL;  -- ignore the error

        y := x / 0;
        WHEN division_by_zero THEN  -- ignore the error

Which is preferable is a matter of taste.

Note: In Oracle's PL/SQL, empty statement lists are not allowed, and so NULL statements are required for situations such as this. PL/pgSQL allows you to just write nothing, instead.

37.6.5. Executing Dynamic Commands

Oftentimes you will want to generate dynamic commands inside your PL/pgSQL functions, that is, commands that will involve different tables or different data types each time they are executed. PL/pgSQL's normal attempts to cache plans for commands will not work in such scenarios. To handle this sort of problem, the EXECUTE statement is provided:

EXECUTE command-string [ INTO [STRICT] target ];

where command-string is an expression yielding a string (of type text) containing the command to be executed and target is a record variable, row variable, or a comma-separated list of simple variables and record/row fields.

Note in particular that no substitution of PL/pgSQL variables is done on the computed command string. The values of variables must be inserted in the command string as it is constructed.

Unlike all other commands in PL/pgSQL, a command run by an EXECUTE statement is not prepared and saved just once during the life of the session. Instead, the command is prepared each time the statement is run. The command string can be dynamically created within the function to perform actions on different tables and columns.

The INTO clause specifies where the results of a SQL command returning rows should be assigned. If a row or variable list is provided, it must exactly match the structure of the query's results (when a record variable is used, it will configure itself to match the result structure automatically). If multiple rows are returned, only the first will be assigned to the INTO variable. If no rows are returned, NULL is assigned to the INTO variable. If no INTO clause is specified, the query results are discarded.

If the STRICT option is given, an error is reported unless the query produces exactly one row.

SELECT INTO is not currently supported within EXECUTE.

When working with dynamic commands you will often have to handle escaping of single quotes. The recommended method for quoting fixed text in your function body is dollar quoting. (If you have legacy code that does not use dollar quoting, please refer to the overview in Section 37.2.1, which can save you some effort when translating said code to a more reasonable scheme.)

Dynamic values that are to be inserted into the constructed query require special handling since they might themselves contain quote characters. An example (this assumes that you are using dollar quoting for the function as a whole, so the quote marks need not be doubled):

        || quote_ident(colname)
        || ' = '
        || quote_literal(newvalue)
        || ' WHERE key = '
        || quote_literal(keyvalue);

This example demonstrates the use of the quote_ident and quote_literal functions. For safety, expressions containing column and table identifiers should be passed to quote_ident. Expressions containing values that should be literal strings in the constructed command should be passed to quote_literal. Both take the appropriate steps to return the input text enclosed in double or single quotes respectively, with any embedded special characters properly escaped.

Note that dollar quoting is only useful for quoting fixed text. It would be a very bad idea to try to do the above example as

        || quote_ident(colname)
        || ' = $$'
        || newvalue
        || '$$ WHERE key = '
        || quote_literal(keyvalue);

because it would break if the contents of newvalue happened to contain $$. The same objection would apply to any other dollar-quoting delimiter you might pick. So, to safely quote text that is not known in advance, you must use quote_literal.

A much larger example of a dynamic command and EXECUTE can be seen in Example 37-6, which builds and executes a CREATE FUNCTION command to define a new function.

37.6.6. Obtaining the Result Status

There are several ways to determine the effect of a command. The first method is to use the GET DIAGNOSTICS command, which has the form:

GET DIAGNOSTICS variable = item [ , ... ];

This command allows retrieval of system status indicators. Each item is a key word identifying a state value to be assigned to the specified variable (which should be of the right data type to receive it). The currently available status items are ROW_COUNT, the number of rows processed by the last SQL command sent down to the SQL engine, and RESULT_OID, the OID of the last row inserted by the most recent SQL command. Note that RESULT_OID is only useful after an INSERT command into a table containing OIDs.

An example:


The second method to determine the effects of a command is to check the special variable named FOUND, which is of type boolean. FOUND starts out false within each PL/pgSQL function call. It is set by each of the following types of statements:

FOUND is a local variable within each PL/pgSQL function; any changes to it affect only the current function.