Recursive query — Learn and master SQL training

In this chapter we will see how to write queries to retrieve recursive data (recursive common table expressions).

The key word WITH allows you to write auxiliary statements that can be used in a larger query. These declarations, often called Common Table Expression or CTE, can be seen as temporary tables that only exist for a query.

WITH
  cte1 AS (SELECT a, b FROM table1),
  cte2 AS (SELECT c, d FROM table2)
SELECT b, d FROM cte1 JOIN cte2
WHERE cte1.a = cte2.c;

It is possible to use WITH to retrieve data recursively. In this case the declaration in the AS will be broken down into 2 statements grouped by a UNION (Where UNION ALL).

  • A first statement will retrieve the data at the root of our recursion.
  • A second statement that will contain a reference to the result of the previous query.

For the example we will retrieve the parent categories recursively.

WITH RECURSIVE categories_tree AS (
    SELECT id, name, parent_id FROM categories WHERE id = 14 /* On récupère la catégorie en profondeur */
    UNION ALL
    SELECT c.id, c.name, c.parent_id FROM categories c, categories_tree WHERE c.id = categories_tree.parent_id
)
SELECT * FROM categories_tree

It is also possible to calculate the depth and the path to a category if we start with the root.

WITH RECURSIVE children (id, name, parent_id, level, path) AS (
    SELECT id, name, parent_id, 0, name FROM categories WHERE parent_id IS NULL
    UNION ALL
    SELECT 
        c.id,
        c.name, 
        c.parent_id, 
        children.level + 1,
        children.path || " > " || c.name
    FROM categories c, children
    WHERE c.parent_id = children.id
)
SELECT * FROM children

To test

If you want to test this type of query here is a structure you can use.

CREATE TABLE IF NOT EXISTS categories (
    id INTEGER PRIMARY KEY AUTOINCREMENT,
    name VARCHAR(255) NOT NULL,
    parent_id INTEGER,
    FOREIGN KEY (parent_id) REFERENCES categories(id) ON DELETE CASCADE
);

INSERT INTO categories
VALUES (1, 'Mammifère', NULL),
       (2, 'Chien', 1),
       (3, 'Chat', 1),
       (4, 'Singe', 1),
       (5, 'Gorille', 4),
       (6, 'Chimpanzé', 4),
       (7, 'Shiba', 2),
       (8, 'Corgi', 2),
       (9, 'Labrador', 2),
       (10, 'Poisson', NULL),
       (11, 'Requin', 10),
       (12, 'Requin blanc', 11),
       (13, 'Grand requin blanc', 12),
       (14, 'Petit requin blanc', 12),
       (15, 'Requin marteau', 11),
       (16, 'Requin tigre', 11),
       (17, 'Poisson rouge', 10),
       (18, 'Poisson chat', 10);

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