Querying arrays

Describes how to use UNNEST function to query arrays. ARRAY data types represent collections with arbitrary numbers of elements, where each element is the same type.

Querying arrays using JOIN and UNNEST

You can query arrays by making a join between the table and the array inside the table. This approach is improved with the introduction of the UNNEST function in the SELECT list or in the FROM clause in the SELECT statement. When you use UNNEST, you can provide more than one array in the SELECT statement. If you use JOINs for querying arrays it will yield a “joining unnest” however the latter will provide a “zipping unnest”.

Example of querying arrays using JOIN

Use JOIN in cases where you must join unnest of multiple arrays. However if you must zip unnest then use the newly implemented UNNEST function.

Here is an example of a SELECT statement that uses JOINs to query an array.

SELECT id, arr1.item, arr2.item FROM tbl_name tbl, tbl.arr1, tbl.arr2;

[1, 1, 10]
[1, 1, 11]
[1, 2, 10]
[1, 2, 11]
[1, 3, 10]
[1, 3, 11]

Examples of querying arrays using UNNEST

You can use one of the two different syntaxes shown here to unnest multiple arrays in one query. This results in the items of the arrays being zipped together instead of joining.

  • ISO:SQL 2016 compliant syntax:
    SELECT a1.item, a2.item
    FROM complextypes_arrays t, UNNEST(t.arr1, t.arr2) AS (a1, a2);
  • Postgres compatible syntax:
    SELECT UNNEST(arr1), UNNEST(arr2) FROM complextypes_arrays;

Unnest operator in SELECT list

SELECT id, unnest(arr1), unnest(arr2) FROM tbl_name;

Unnest operator in FROM clause

SELECT id, arr1.item, arr2.item FROM tbl_name tbl_alias, UNNEST(tbl_alias.arr1, tbl_alias.arr2);

This new functionality would zip the arrays next to each other as shown here.

[1, 1, 10]
[1, 2, 11]
[1, 3, NULL]

Note, that arr2 is shorter than arr1 so the "missing" items in its column will be filled with NULLs.

Limitations in Using UNNEST

  • Only arrays from the same table can be zipping unnested
  • The old (joining) and the new (zipping) unnests cannot be used together
  • You can add a WHERE filter on an unnested item only if you add a wrapper SELECT and do the filtering


    SELECT id, arr1_unnest FROM (SELECT id, unnest(arr1) as arr1_unnest FROM tbl_name) WHERE arr1_unnest < 10;

Using ARRAY columns in the SELECT list

Prior to this release to look into the content of an array you had to unnest the array either by the joining syntax or by using the zipping UNNEST operator as shown in the following example:

SELECT unnest(IDs), unnest(NAMES) FROM table_name;

This release adds support to return ARRAYs as STRINGs (JSON arrays) in the SELECT list, for example:

select id, int_array from functional_parquet.complextypestbl where id = 1;
returns: 1, “[1,2,3]”

Returning ARRAYs from inline or HMS views is also supported. These arrays can be used both in the select list or as relative table references.

select id, int_array from (select id, int_array from complextypestbl) s;

Though STRUCTs are already supported, ARRAYs and STRUCTs nested within each other are not supported yet. Using them as non-relative table references is also not supported yet.