PostgreSQL DISTINCT Clause: Syntax & Query Examples | A 101 Guide

• July 7th, 2022

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PostgreSQL is a powerful object-relational database system. Having been in active development, for now, almost 30 years, PostgreSQL is known for its reliability, data integrity, performance, and robustness.

In this article, you will gain information about PostgreSQL DISTINCT Clause. You will also gain a holistic understanding of PostgreSQL, its key features, different syntax, and examples of PostgreSQL Clause.

Read along to find out in-depth information about creating PostgreSQL DISTINCT Clause.

Table of Contents

What is PostgreSQL?

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PostgreSQL is a high-performance, open-source relational database. It is famous for its Open-Source platform, which supports all RDBMS functionalities. In addition to RDBMS capabilities, it provides indexes, views, stored procedures, triggers, atomicity features, and so on. SQL and JSON queries are also supported. PostgreSQL is also capable of serving as a data warehouse system.

PostgreSQL is compatible with a wide range of operating systems, including Windows, Linux, macOS, and UNIX. The source code for PostgreSQL is publicly accessible under an open-source license, letting users use, modify, and implement it as needed. Since PostgreSQL offers no license costs, there is no risk of over-deployment, which saves a lot of expenses.

Key Features of PostgreSQL

Some of the key features of PostgreSQL are as follows:

  • Customizable: PostgreSQL can be altered and customized by writing plugins to make the DBMS meet your needs. It also lets you integrate custom functions written in other programming languages like Java, C, C++, and others.
  • Community Support: A professional community is always available to its users. PostgreSQL also has a large range of private, third-party support services available.
  • Open-Source: As a free and open-source solution, PostgreSQL offers Object-Oriented and Relational Database capabilities.
  • Users: It is a well-known and commonly used RDBMS. Apple, Etsy, Facebook, Instagram, Red Hat, Skype, Spotify, and many other companies utilize PostgreSQL.
  • Code quality: Every line of code in PostgreSQL is evaluated by a team of professionals, and the whole development process is driven by the community, allowing for speedy bug reporting, changes, and verification.
  • Data Availability and Resiliency: PostgreSQL versions that are privately supported provide additional high availability, resilience, and security for mission-critical production settings such as government agencies, financial institutions, and healthcare providers.

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What is PostgreSQL DISTINCT Clause?

In the SELECT statement, the PostgreSQL DISTINCT clause is used to delete duplicate records from a result set. For each set of duplicates, the DISTINCT clause saves one row. PostgreSQL DISTINCT eliminates all duplicate rows and keeps just one entry for each duplicated row group. The DISTINCT clause can also be applied to multiple columns of a single table,  on one or more columns of different tables attached through joins. 

According to the PostgreSQL Documentation, “If SELECT DISTINCT is specified, all duplicate rows are removed from the result set (one row is kept from each group of duplicates).

1) Syntax

SELECT DISTINCT | DISTINCT ON (distinct_expressions_id)
FROM tables
[WHERE conds];

2) Parameters

  • distinct_expressions_id: This represents the expressions that are used to delete duplicates.
  • column: This represents the name(s) of the column(s) which are to be evaluated for unique values.
  • tables: This represents the name(s) of the table(s) from which you want to get the records. The FROM operator must specify at least one table.
  • WHERE conds: <Optional> This represents the conditions to be met for the records to be selected.

How to use the PostgreSQL DISTINCT Clause?

The different uses of PostgreSQL DISTINCT Clause are as follows:

Syntax #1

DISTINCT column_name1

In this case, the PostgreSQL DISTINCT clause is used for the column_name1 which evaluates the duplicate rows according to the column_name1 column of the table_name. Thus, the output will only show the list of unique column_name1 values.

Syntax #2

DISTINCT column_name1, column_name2

In this case, the PostgreSQL DISTINCT clause is applied to a combination of column names of a table. It checks for unique values for the combination (union) of the columns in that particular table. In the above statement, the PostgreSQL DISTINCT Clause evaluates and displays the output for the combination of values of column_name1 and column_name2.

Syntax #3

DISTINCT ON (column_name1) column_name_alias,

In this case, the DISTINCT ON expression is similar to PostgreSQL DISTINCT clause. It is used with the SELECT statement to remove duplicates from a query set result. In addition, it maintains only the “first row” of each duplicate row in the query set result.

In this case, the firstmost row of every group is random. ORDER BY clause is used along with the PostgreSQL DISTINCT On clause to make the resulting set look organized.

To have in-depth information about the PostgreSQL DISTINCT On Clause, you can have a look at the example of the PostgreSQL DISTINCT On clause.

Examples of PostgreSQL DISTINCT Clause

For showcasing different example use cases of PostgreSQL DISTINCT clause, you can consider the following table.

PostgreSQL Distinct Clause: Table| Hevo Data
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The different examples are as follows:

1) PostgreSQL DISTINCT Clause: Single Column

DISTINCT fore_color

In this case, the PostgreSQL DISTINCT Clause is used to fetch the unique values of the fore_color column from the ColorProperties table. And to sort the output of the query set in ascending order, the Order By clause is used. 


PostgreSQL Distinct Clause: Single Column| Hevo Data
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2) PostgreSQL DISTINCT Clause: Multiple Columns

DISTINCT fore_color,

In this case, the PostgreSQL SELECT DISTINCT Clause is used along with 2 columns i.e., fore_color and back_color. So, it evaluates the unique values for the combination of the values in the 2 columns.


PostgreSQL Distinct Clause: Multiple Columns| Hevo Data
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3) PostgreSQL DISTINCT Clause: With DISTINCT ON Clause

(back_color) backgroundcolor,

In this case, the PostgreSQL DISTINCT On clause evaluates the unique values and removes all duplicate rows for the first column keeping a one-row entry for each value of the first column.


PostgreSQL Distinct Clause: Distinct On Clause| Hevo Data
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4) PostgreSQL DISTINCT Clause: Multiple Tables

To better understand the application of PostgreSQL DISTINCT Clause in multiple tables, let’s consider two tables i.e, students and departments.

Creating students table & Inserting Values:

CREATE TABLE students (
name text not null,
department_id text not null,
CONSTRAINT students_pk PRIMARY KEY (name)
INSERT INTO students (name, department_id) VALUES
('Jacob', '101'),
('David', '102'),
('John', '103');

Creating departments tables & inserting Values:

CREATE TABLE departments (
department_id text not null,
department_name text not null
INSERT INTO departments (department_id, department_name) VALUES
('101', 'Computer'),
('102', 'Electrical'),
('103', 'Mechanical');

Query for evaluating unique values:

SELECT DISTINCT ON (s.department_id) s.department_id,, d.department_name
FROM students s
JOIN departments d ON d.department_id = s.department_id
ORDER BY s.department_id DESC

In this case, first, both the tables are joined based on the join condition. Then, the PostgreSQL DISTINCT On clause is applied to remove duplicate entries and keep a one-row entry for each value of the first column.


PostgreSQL Distinct Clause: Distinct On Clause| Hevo Data
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In this article, you learned about PostgreSQL DISTINCT Clause. This article also focused on PostgreSQL, its key features, different examples, and use cases of the PostgreSQL DISTINCT Clause.

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