LIMIT clause

The LIMIT clause in a SELECT query sets a maximum number of rows for the result set. Pre-selecting the maximum size of the result set helps Impala to optimize memory usage while processing a distributed query.

Syntax:

LIMIT constant_integer_expression

The argument to the LIMIT clause must evaluate to a constant value. It can be a numeric literal, or another kind of numeric expression involving operators, casts, and function return values. You cannot refer to a column or use a subquery.

Usage notes:

This clause is useful in contexts such as:

  • To return exactly N items from a top-N query, such as the 10 highest-rated items in a shopping category or the 50 hostnames that refer the most traffic to a web site.
  • To demonstrate some sample values from a table or a particular query. (To display some arbitrary items, use a query with no ORDER BY clause. An ORDER BY clause causes additional memory and/or disk usage during the query.)
  • To keep queries from returning huge result sets by accident if a table is larger than expected, or a WHERE clause matches more rows than expected.

Originally, the value for the LIMIT clause had to be a numeric literal. In Impala 1.2.1 and higher, it can be a numeric expression.

Prior to Impala 1.4.0, Impala required any query including an ORDER_BY clause to also use a LIMIT clause. In Impala 1.4.0 and higher, the LIMIT clause is optional for ORDER BY queries. In cases where sorting a huge result set requires enough memory to exceed the Impala memory limit for a particular executor Impala daemon, Impala automatically uses a temporary disk work area to perform the sort operation.

In Impala 1.2.1 and higher, you can combine a LIMIT clause with an OFFSET clause to produce a small result set that is different from a top-N query, for example, to return items 11 through 20. This technique can be used to simulate “paged” results. Because Impala queries typically involve substantial amounts of I/O, use this technique only for compatibility in cases where you cannot rewrite the application logic. For best performance and scalability, wherever practical, query as many items as you expect to need, cache them on the application side, and display small groups of results to users using application logic.

Restrictions:

Correlated subqueries used in EXISTS and IN operators cannot include a LIMIT clause.

Examples:

The following example shows how the LIMIT clause caps the size of the result set, with the limit being applied after any other clauses such as WHERE.

[localhost:21000] > create database limits;
[localhost:21000] > use limits;
[localhost:21000] > create table numbers (x int);
[localhost:21000] > insert into numbers values (1), (3), (4), (5), (2);
Inserted 5 rows in 1.34s
[localhost:21000] > select x from numbers limit 100;
+---+
| x |
+---+
| 1 |
| 3 |
| 4 |
| 5 |
| 2 |
+---+
Returned 5 row(s) in 0.26s
[localhost:21000] > select x from numbers limit 3;
+---+
| x |
+---+
| 1 |
| 3 |
| 4 |
+---+
Returned 3 row(s) in 0.27s
[localhost:21000] > select x from numbers where x > 2 limit 2;
+---+
| x |
+---+
| 3 |
| 4 |
+---+
Returned 2 row(s) in 0.27s

For top-N and bottom-N queries, you use the ORDER BY and LIMIT clauses together:

[localhost:21000] > select x as "Top 3" from numbers order by x desc limit 3;
+-------+
| top 3 |
+-------+
| 5     |
| 4     |
| 3     |
+-------+
[localhost:21000] > select x as "Bottom 3" from numbers order by x limit 3;
+----------+
| bottom 3 |
+----------+
| 1        |
| 2        |
| 3        |
+----------+

You can use constant values besides integer literals as the LIMIT argument:

-- Other expressions that yield constant integer values work too.
SELECT x FROM t1 LIMIT 1e6;                        -- Limit is one million.
SELECT x FROM t1 LIMIT length('hello world');      -- Limit is 11.
SELECT x FROM t1 LIMIT 2+2;                        -- Limit is 4.
SELECT x FROM t1 LIMIT cast(truncate(9.9) AS INT); -- Limit is 9.